EPA Grant Money Available for Environmental Justice Projects

Posted October 14, 2014 by banszog
Categories: Environmental, environmental justice, Land Use

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Up to $30,000 in Grants Available to Community-Based Projects Combatting Local Climate Change Issues through the EPA Environmental Justice Small Grants Program

Environmental catastrophes and public health epidemics can happen anywhere – from world-class cities, to small towns, and even in your own back yard.  Unfortunately, they’re often preventable.  Community-based organizations are typically best-suited to raise awareness about and craft preventive and responsive solutions to these issues.  Recognizing the pivotal role that community-based organizations play, in 1994, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) created the Environmental Justice (EJ) Small Grants Program.  Since then, over the past twenty years, the EJ Small Grants Program has provided over $24 million to more than 1400 community-based organizations and local and tribal organizations working with local communities to solve environmental and public health issues, including land and water contamination, air pollution, energy efficiency, and brownfield restoration and redevelopment.  Past EJ Small Grant Awardees in New York state include:

clean airSt. Regis Mohawk Tribe, Akwesasne, New York

In 2013, the EPA awarded an EJ Small Grant to the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe in Akwesane, New York, for its project aimed at educating the Akwesasne tribal community on indoor environmental asthma triggers. Members of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe suffered from above-average incidences of asthma and respiratory diseases which were linked to high exposure to indoor environmental toxins like radon, mold, household chemicals and smoke. With a grant from the EJ Small Grant Program, program coordinators disseminated vital information to the tribal community, provided audits of each home, and gave tailored solutions to improving air quality and lowering exposure to indoor environmental hazards.

Clean Air Coalition of Western New York, Buffalo, New York

In 2012, the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York won an EJ Small Grant for its project, “Building Community Capacity to Reduce Air Pollution.”  Buffalo is a major hub for local and cross-country freight, and consequently, the local community is disproportionately affected by air pollution caused by freight diesel exhaust.  This project sought to inform and encourage local leaders to advocate for solutions to community exposure to diesel exhaust, particularly for the city’s low-income residents who live closest to the freight transport hubs.

Onondaga Environmental Institute, Syracuse, New York

In 2011, the EPA awarded an EJ Small Grant to the Onondaga Environmental Institute for its project, “Our Water, Our Lives.”  This project educated local high school students about various water pollutants and contaminants that affect human health and the local ecosystem.  Onondaga Environmental Institute also partnered with another local organization, Orenda Springs, to provide students with the hands-on experience and advocacy skills necessary to become leaders in their community’s  environmental justice movement.

Citizens’ Environmental Coalition, Geneva, New York

In 2010, the Citizens’ Environmental Coalition partnered with the Citizens of Seneca County and Finger Lakes Zero Waste Coalition to develop the EJ Small Grant Project, “Training Mega-Landfill Neighborhoods to Lead Themselves in Air Quality Awareness and Environmental Stewardship, including Climate Change.”  This project disseminated information to the local community about the environmental, health, and climate change impact of landfills, specifically, the Seneca Meadows Landfill in Geneva, NY.  It also promoted community involvement, encouraging citizens, students, teachers, and community activists to work together to develop solutions to control, reduce, or eliminate air quality and land contamination hazards caused by the landfill.

For more information about these or other past EJ Small Grant Program awardees, visit the EJ Small Grants Program website.

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This year, the EPA is targeting its support towards community-led initiatives aimed at combatting the risk and impact of climate change.  The agency explains: “this year’s program will have a special emphasis on proposals supporting community-based preparedness and resilience efforts (community climate resiliency).”  The EPA also announced a new commitment to awarding grants to organizations who have never before received a grant from the agency.  For fiscal year 2015, the EJ Small Grant Program has been allocated $1.2 million, and plans to award a total of 40 grants (four grants in each of the ten EPA regions), in the amount of up to $30,000 each, for community organizations with compelling two-year project plans.

If you or someone you know is part of a community-based organization interested in developing a project to promote preparedness for or combat the negative effects of climate change in our community, encourage them to apply for the EPA Environmental Justice Small Grant Program.   The EPA has also published this informational brochure aimed at helping local organization develop projects appropriate for the EJ Small Grant Program, and is offering pre-application assistance via phone on the following dates and times: Wednesday, October 15, 2014: 4:00 – 5:30 p.m. EST; Saturday, November 1, 2014: 1:00 – 2:30 p.m. EST; and Tuesday, November 18, 2014: 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. EST. To join the pre-application assistance call, dial 1-866-299-3188 and enter the code 202-564-1771 when prompted.  Interested organizations, save the date: applications must be submitted by December 15, 2014.

IS A “SIMPLE” WILL RIGHT FOR YOU?

Posted August 9, 2013 by banszog
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: ,

A “simple” Will can be defined as one by which the person making the Will (the testator) leaves all assets first to his spouse. If the spouse predeceases the testator, then all assets go to the children in equal shares. For some people this may be fine.
For other people, a simple Will may not be best because it does not consider these and other issues:
1. Children may get money or assets outright at eighteen, the age of majority, and might not use the money for college or some other use the testator supports.
2. It’s a second marriage, the children are not of this marriage and the testator never adopted them, even though he considers them to be his children.
3. One child receives governmental benefits and anything left to that child will make them ineligible for those benefits.
4. Uncertainty as to what assets transfer under the Will instead of by other means.
5. The testator made unequal financial gifts during his lifetime (maybe paid for college) and wants to equalize monies given to children in the Will.
6. The testator wants to leave something to some grandchildren and to a couple of charities.
The lawyers at Bansbach Zoghlin P.C. can draft a simple Will or a Will tailored to your life. If you would like to talk with or send an e-mail to one of us, please let us know.
BANSBACH ZOGHLIN P.C.
Tel: (585) 227-2610
John M. Bansbach, Esq. jbansbach@banszog.com
Mindy L. Zoghlin, Esq. mzoghlin@banszog.com
Gerald F. Wahl, Esq. gwahl@banszog.com
The information contained in this article is not legal advice. Bansbach Zoghlin provides legal advice to clients who retain it to provide services.

WAYS TO AVOID PROBATE COURT

Posted July 19, 2013 by banszog
Categories: Estate Planning, probate, Uncategorized, wills

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It’s possible to keep assets that transfer because of death out of probate court.   If you do this, a probate court judge (New York State calls them a “Surrogate’s Court Judge”) will not be involved in your estate.  This is true whether you die with or without a Will. There can be many advantages to avoiding Surrogate’s Court:  less expense for court filing fees and attorney fees; less exposure of your assets to claims of creditors; faster distribution of assets; and greater privacy.

There are simple ways to keep your post-death financial transactions out of a probate court.   These include: (a) owning assets as a joint tenant so that the survivor becomes the owner by operation of law (often done with real estate and bank accounts); (b) naming beneficiaries and contingent beneficiaries (for example, life insurance and IRAs); and (c) using TOD (Transfer on Death) accounts.

Less simple ways to keep assets out of probate court include transferring them  during your life to a revocable or an irrevocable trust and transferring your home to children with the reservation of your right to live in your home as long as you choose (a so-called “life estate”).  In addition to keeping assets out of probate court, these types of transfers can increase the certainty that what you want will to happen does happen and avoid the need to pay for nursing home care privately in order to spend down assets to achieve Medicaid eligibility.

 If you’re interested in avoiding estate probate, the lawyers at Bansbach Zoghlin P.C. can help you.

THINK OF THE LIVING: ESTATE PLANNING

Posted June 3, 2013 by banszog
Categories: Estate Planning, wills

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Estate planning benefits you and people you care about during and after your life. It is far more than making a Will that distributes your assets after you die.

You benefit during your life by appointing an agent under a Power of Attorney to make financial decisions. This lets you choose a trusted relative or friend to make decisions for you if you are disabled and avoids the need for a court to appoint a guardian for you.

You benefit during your life by appointing a proxy under a Health Care Proxy to make medical decisions. This lets you select a trusted relative or friend to make medical decisions if you are unable and avoids the need for a court to appoint a guardian for you.

Minor children or disabled persons you care about benefit from your estate planning. You can appoint a caring guardian to raise minor children and a financially responsible trustee to make their money decisions. This avoids a court appointing the guardian and trustee. You can make disabled children and adults beneficiaries of a special type of trust (a supplemental needs trust). A special needs trust will provide money for experiences and creature comforts the disabled person might not otherwise have and will not disqualify them from receiving governmental benefits.

People who will pay the expenses of your estate benefit when you plan for what will be owed and where estate tax, probate expenses, lawyer’s’ fees, accountant’s’ fees, funeral and burial expenses will come from.

People who handle your end-of-life affairs benefit when you make funeral and burial arrangements and state who will get what items of property with sentimental value. Items with sentimental value may be worth more to your heirs than their dollar value would suggest. Planning removes uncertainty about what you want and can make it easier to accomplish what you want.

Finally, planning will make it more likely your money and assets will go to the persons you choose. Planning can reduce the amount of your assets that go to pay nursing home expense, make it easier to earlier qualify for Medicaid, reduce estate taxes, and increase the likelihood that what you leave will not be squandered but will achieve good.

Flooded by Flood Cases

Posted December 7, 2012 by banszog
Categories: Constitutional Law, Environmental, Flood, Land Use, Takings

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Maybe it’s a result of overdevelopment, global warming, unusual weather or coincidence.  But we’ve seen an unusually high number of flooding cases this year.  And this week’s Supreme Court decision will make them easier to litigate.

The “Takings Clause” of the United States Constitution states that the government cannot to take private property for public use unless it pays just compensation to the property owner.  On December 4, 2012 the Supreme Court decided that government conduct that results in temporary or intermittent flooding which interferes with private property can constitute a “taking.”

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission v. United States, 568 US ___ ,2012 WL 6012490 (Dec. 4, 2012) involved a 2300 acre wildlife management area that was forested with multiple hardwood oak species and served as a venue for recreation and hunting.  The Army Corps of Engineers constructed a dam upstream from the wildlife area and manipulated release of water from the Dam to benefit other downstream farmers.  The intentional flooding during tree-growing season destroyed timber and substantially changed the character of the terrain, necessitating costly reclamation measures.

In finding that a compensable taking occurred, the court considered the flood duration, whether the flooding was a foreseeable result of government action, the character of the land at issue and the property owner’s “reasonable-investment based expectation” regarding the land’s use.

With private development reducing permeable land and government maintenance and control over many drainage ways, this case will likely open the floodgates of litigation over downstream impacts and may result in positive changes to how we manage surface water runoff.  Now, more than ever, property owners will want to consider whether government action caused flooding of their property.

Pet Trust Musing

Posted September 14, 2012 by banszog
Categories: Estate Planning, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

While driving to work yesterday, I began to think about what would happen if I died today?  I have relatively few real assets: a car, a few bank accounts and some jewelry.  All of that would go to my husband, Ryan.  I have no children, but I do have a 1 year old Lab-mix named Ollie. Ollie sure acts like a big baby sometimes despite the fact that he can put his paws on my shoulders and weighs in at about 65 lbs.  While I may attribute human characteristics to Ollie and treat him as an important member of my family, in the eyes of the law he is just another piece of property.

We often plan for the fate of our homes, cars, jewelry and heirlooms, but what about our pets?  Sadly, our pets are often overlooked in traditional estate planning.  According to the American Pet Products Association (“APPA”), 62% of U.S. households own at least one pet[1]. Our pets range from cats and dogs to horses and pythons.  Over 500,000 pets end up in shelters each year due to the pet owner’s death or incapacity.[2]  Of those, up to half may be subject to euthanization.[3]

While it may be difficult to put Ollie in the same category as a couch or grandma’s china, it is important to plan for our pets so that they can be cared for even after we are gone.  Unlike grandma’s china, Ollie would be costly to maintain, and that may be too much to ask of surviving loved ones.

Well, there’s costly, and then there’s extravagant.  “Queen of Mean” Leona Helmsley left $12 Million in Trust for the care of her beloved Maltese, Trouble, when she died in 2007[4].  While the Court eventually reduced the trust to $2 Million, Trouble’s annual expenses until his death in 2011 are estimated to have been approximately $190,000 per year[5].  However neither Ollie nor your everyday household pet will require a $12 Million trust for care during its life.  According to the APPA, the average dog will incur approximately $1,500 in expenses each year, while the typical cat may only incur approximately $1,200[6].  Not every dog requires a personal security team like Trouble did[7].  The annual expense for your pet may vary depending on his or her lifestyle, favorite foods, grooming expectations, toys and medical condition.

When choosing someone to care for your pet it’s important to choose someone who is willing and able .  Leona Helmsley appointed her son as Trouble’s caretaker, but he refused.  Ultimately, the manager of one of Helmsley’s hotels agreed to take care of Trouble.

While Trouble was lucky that someone was willing to take her in, other pets aren’t as fortunate.  I would choose at least one alternate caretaker and, as a last resort, a no-kill animal shelter or rescue organization that can find a loving home for Ollie in the event that the appointed caretakers are unable to care for him.

In all likelihood, the trust you create for your pet will outlive your pet.  In that case, it is important that you appoint a beneficiary to receive the remainder of the trust upon your pet’s death.  The beneficiary can be an individual or a charity.  Humane Societies and rescue organizations are popular choices.  Ryan and I adopted Ollie from a rescue organization called Buffalo Paws and Claws; it is likely that when we set up a trust for Ollie’s care we will leave the remainder to that organization so that they can continue to place rescued animals in forever homes.

The moral of the story is this: the law may treat our pets like personal property, but many us of consider them a part of our families.  When we die we should consider who will care for them, and what funds may be needed to do so.


[1] American Pet Products Association, Industry Statistics & Trends, Available at: http://americanpetproducts.org/press_industrytrends.asp

[2] Shidoon Aflatooni, The Statutory Pet Trust, 18 Animal L. 1 2011 at 3

[3] Shidoon Aflatooni, The Statutory Pet Trust, 18 Animal L. 1 2011at 3

[4] Sewell Chan, Leona Helmsley’s Unusual Last Will, Aug 27, 2007, available at:http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/08/29/leona-helmsleys-unusual-last-will/

[5] Dan Slater, Trouble for Trouble!  Judge Knocks $10 Mil form Helmsley Dog’s Take, June 16, 2008, available at:http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2008/06/16/trouble-for-trouble-judge-knocks-10-mil-from-helmsley-dogs-take/

[6] American Pet Products Association, Industry Statistics & Trends, Available at: http://americanpetproducts.org/press_industrytrends.asp

[7]

FEDERAL COURT STOPS ENFORCEMENT OF COUNTY FLOW CONTROL LAW

Posted April 19, 2012 by banszog
Categories: Business, Environmental, Flow Control, Land Use

Tags: , , , , , , ,

The United States District Court in Syracuse has issued a preliminary injunction against Oswego County to prohibit it from enforcing the 2011 Flow Control Law against JWJ Industries, Inc. and Jeff Holbook.

The Court found that JWJ was likely to win its claim that Oswego County’s 2011 Flow Control Law was unconstitutionally vague and, if enforced, would put JWJ out of business, favor one of its competitors and result in an unconstitutional taking without just compensation.

This decision means a transfer station in the county will not be subject to the county’s waste disposal monopoly until the lawsuit concludes, and will help a small private company stay in business.

The Court’s decision stops enforcement of a law adopted by the County on December 15, 2011, before plaintiffs had an opportunity to view it.  The law was to become effective on January 1, 2012.  Not until December 27, 2011, at 3:26 p.m. was the law sent to JWJ’s attorneys.  The Court expressed disapproval of how the County handled the 2011 amendment:

Upon finding the 2008 flow control law unconstitutionally vague, the Court ordered the County to revisit its flow control law and clarify the language, to allow plaintiffs and potential similarly situated parties to know exactly what was expected and required of them to conform to the waste management laws of the County.   The Court, perhaps too optimistically, expected the parties to confer in good faith to reach a consensus and arrive at a law that would be clear, unambiguous and would avoid the need to reopen this case.   That did not happen.

For the past sixteen (16) years, Jeffrey Holbrook has operated the JWJ Transfer Station in Oswego County under a permit from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”).  The JWJ Transfer Station accepts construction and demolition waste that is generated both in and out of Oswego County pursuant to the DEC Permit.

This is the U.S. District Court’s second recent decision regarding Oswego County’s laws that seek to restrict businesses in Oswego County who are involved in the transport and processing of construction and demolition debris.  The first of these “Flow Control” laws was enacted on October 13, 2008

In a previous decision made on June 13, 2011 regarding the 2008 “Flow Control” provisions, the district court granted plaintiffs’ motion for judgment on the pleadings and struck the law as unconstitutionally vague.

The Court found that “Scrutiny of the letters and directives from the County and its director of solid waste reveals that not only does the Flow Control Law in question authorize and encourage arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement, such arbitrary enforcement is manifest here.”  It concluded that “the inadequately drafted Oswego County Flow Control Law is unconstitutional for vagueness as written.  The Court also finds that the Flow Control Law is unconstitutional as applied to JWJ, and foreseeably to any other entity that would deem to own and operate a waste management facility in the County, however unlikely this scenario might be under the County’s existing waste management penumbra.”

Jeff Holbrook, JWJ’s owner and a resident of Oswego County for 48 years, is pleased with the recent decision.  JWJ and Holbrook are represented by Mindy Zoghlin, a partner in Bansbach Zoghlin P.C. in Rochester.