NHL Expansion Follow Up: The Case for Seattle

The NHL is just returning from their Olympic break where game operations were suspended so that the players could represent their respective countries in Sochi.


In a relatively slow news cycle for the NHL at this point, one story did gain some traction, and that is the discussion by NHL executives with the media regarding the potential expansion of the league to Seattle.


This is not the first time Seattle has been mentioned relative to the NHL, the city was rumored to be a potential relocation target for the struggling Phoenix Coyotes franchise prior to the start of this season. I have covered the situation surrounding the Coyotes ownership changes and potential relocation to Seattle, so this will serve as a follow up story to a situation that I have a great deal of knowledge about.


The NHL has discussed the potential for expansion recently especially after the lockout hurt revenues in 2012-13. The expansion fee for a new franchise to enter the league would represent a significant revenue injection for the other owners in the NHL.


The western United States is a target area for the league at this point with the realignment causing the Eastern Conference to have two more teams than the Western Conference. The Pacific Northwest is seen as a having significant growth potential for the NHL, and the key market in the region is Seattle.


The potential expansion of the NHL to Seattle would add a large TV market (12th largest) which will provide greater leverage for the league in their next television rights contract negotiations, and greater revenue from TV advertising.


The addition of an expansion franchise in Seattle would also bring the NHL into another large population center as Seattle has the 15th largest metropolitan area population in the United States. In fact, between the TV market and the metro area population statistics, Seattle would be a larger market for the NHL than 10 other domestic U.S. markets where the league has current franchises in operation.


Heading North


A group of business, civic, and political leaders from Seattle recently traveled north of the border to Vancouver to meet with the front office and executives from the Vancouver Canucks to learn how the team conducts the business of professional hockey.


This trip is another indication that the expansion of the NHL to Seattle is becoming more serious. The business side of an NHL franchise is very unique, and this meeting was a very good idea, especially when members of the Seattle Sports Commission told the local media that some members of the delegation travelling to Vancouver had never seen a live hockey game before.


The rumored ownership team for the prospective expansion franchise in Seattle is Ray Bartoszek and Anthony Lanza. These two businessmen were also the principal people involved when the NHL considered relocating the Phoenix Coyotes to Seattle in the summer of 2013. The qualifications of an ownership group represent a huge hurdle in the decision for a league to award an expansion franchise, it appears that Seattle has a well-financed group in place.


The other big issue in the case for Seattle to be awarded an NHL expansion franchise is the arena situation, which is another huge piece to consider in this process. The NHL has stated that if it were to expand the league, the added team or teams would begin play in 2015-16. This time frame may give Seattle enough time to gain final approvals and construct the proposed new arena near the other two sports stadiums downtown.


However, that brings a new issue to the table, the funding for the arena is based on an agreement between the City of Seattle, King County, and investor Chris Hansen that calls for an NBA team to be the primary tenant of the new arena. Therefore, the public funding agreements would need to be changed should the city be granted an NHL team before they gain an NBA franchise.



The time frame for expansion is appropriate because it will take a couple of years to hire personnel to staff the front office and the business operations side of the team, organize a marketing campaign, and sell luxury suites or season ticket plans.


The expansion fee is expected to be very large with estimates in the media of close to $250 million. Then factor in approximately $500 million for the new arena, and Seattle is poised to make a huge investment in professional hockey.


I have reported on the potential expansion of the NHL before, and the league will most likely expand by two teams in 2015-16. The media speculation is that the NHL will most likely select Seattle and then either Quebec City or Kansas City with the other expansion slot.


The result of all of this, in the end, it looks like Seattle is going to have an NHL hockey team to cheer for in the near future.

(Credit to NBC Sports.com and Seattle Times for some background information)



Why Phil Jackson Will Not Coach The Knicks

The New York Knicks are in a tailspin, everyone who follows basketball knows that, and the rumors have been swirling that their head coach, Mike Woodson, is going to be fired as soon as next week. The speculation is that the Knicks front office will go with an interim head coach for the remainder of the season, and pursue Phil Jackson to be the next head coach for the long term.


I have been a Knicks fan for a very long time, and I can state with a fair amount of certainty that Phil Jackson will not be the next head coach of the team. My rationale is simple: Jackson has been offered the job before and declined it, the roster of the team is a mess that is not easily fixed, and the owner is too intrusive.


In addition, Phil Jackson has won his championships, he has made a ton of money coaching, and he is retired with some health issues. The Knicks have approached him and made overtures to him before and he has not been interested in the job. It is going to take a lot of money and a great sales pitch for Jackson to consider taking over the Knicks coaching duties at this point.


The Knicks will begin the second half of their season after the All Star festivities over this past weekend in New Orleans. I thought this would be a good time to evaluate the team and the future of the head coaching position in New York.


Roster Mess


The key motivation point for Phil Jackson to take the coaching job in New York would be the capability for the current roster to be championship-caliber. This roster at the present time is not winning a championship at any time soon, in fact it would be pressed at this point to make the playoffs. In the Eastern Conference, that is saying very little, since the majority of the teams do not even have winning records.


Jackson is not going to coach here for a long period of time, he is 68 years old, and so this has to be a “win now” situation. The Knicks are set up to have several contracts expiring so they will have a great deal of salary cap room in the summer of 2015. That is still over a year away and it will take time to build team chemistry with an overhauled roster, so this will take a multi-year commitment from Jackson.


The Knicks current roster features poor point guard play, a shooting guard in J.R. Smith who plays erratically and inconsistently, an aging front court which has been injured more than they have spent time on the floor, and a star player in Carmelo Anthony who plans to test the free agent market at the end of this season.


The team needs depth at every position, a point guard, and a forward with size who can rebound and play defense. The Knicks also have virtually no draft picks because they have traded them away in deals to obtain veteran players from other teams in the past.


This is a key aspect in roster building because it takes away the ability to get younger players through the draft on more cost effective contracts. It also takes a key chip off the table in future trades where the Knicks could improve their team by trading draft picks and not parting with multiple players on their current roster.


Ownership drama


The final reason, and perhaps the most compelling reason, why Phil Jackson will not be the next head coach of the Knicks is the intrusive nature of their owner, James Dolan.  Dolan gets involved in every aspect of the Knicks and does not allow the head coach any power or control over the roster moves of the organization. Phil Jackson is a proven winner and is considered to be among one of the greatest coaches in NBA history. He is going to be approached by other teams in search of a head coach.  Why would he take the job with the Knicks and have no control over the roster, when he could go somewhere else and have full control over player decisions?


The answer is that he would not come to New York and deal with the owner constantly making front office moves, firing the general manager on a whim and forcing the front office to make trades before they were ready to do so, like with Donnie Walsh and the trade for Carmelo Anthony.


Phil Jackson is not going to want any part of the front office drama that comes with the territory of being associated with a Knicks organization run by James Dolan.


I have seen the Knicks make some bizarre moves just when you thought they had a plan, they would make a trade or bring in a free agent that made no sense. That had started to change after the disaster of the Isaiah Thomas years, and Walsh had assembled a pretty good roster here at one point, and then this season happened.


The unorthodox style of the Knicks front office continues, when just last week, New York was linked to a potential trade with the Denver Nuggets for Kenneth Faried. Now, I think Faried is a talented player and a great athlete, but the move does not make sense from the Knicks perspective because they need size on the front line. Faried is an undersized power forward who can score, he is not known for his rebounding.

The Knicks currently use a smaller lineup with Carmelo Anthony playing the power forward spot and using his quickness, athleticism, and lethal shooting ability to score against bigger, slower players at that position. Kenneth Faried can score points but is in no way even in the same category as Anthony, who is one of the top players in the NBA. I do not understand why the Knicks would try to obtain another smaller guy to play power forward, neither did many reporters on the beat for the team. It is an example of strange moves by the front office in the Garden.  It is also yet another reason why Phil Jackson will not take this job.


At this point, I could see Mike Woodson coaching through the last 30 games of the season, and if the team misses the playoffs, then I think they would have to make a coaching change. The more feasible choice at that point could be Jeff Van Gundy, who has a history with the Knicks, so he knows how the franchise operates. He also has a reputation as more of a disciplinarian than other guys they could bring in, and I think the Knicks need a strong amount of discipline to turn this team around.


I would be shocked if Phil Jackson took this job, for all of these reasons, and because I am not sure that even his coaching greatness could fix the mess which is the New York Knicks.






Superfund: Cleaning America – Part 5

This article series has reviewed the EPA and their Superfund program from the start of the program in response to the Love Canal environmental emergency, through the new protocols of the program, through to the most recent Superfund efforts at the Gowanus Canal site in Brooklyn.


This final section of the series on the Superfund will focus on the feedback I received before writing these articles as well as while I was in the process of writing them. It will also look at the future of the Superfund program with its role in an evolving American industrial landscape.


The future


The future of the Superfund program, in my view, appears to be very robust because the number of sites and proposed sites continues to grow each year. The economic climate and the extreme disapproval of the American public toward new forms of taxation of any kind will continue to funnel more environmental cleanup responsibilities to the federal level.


The Superfund, as stated earlier, utilizes the funds from the potentially responsible parties or (PRP) to pay for the remediation functions required to fully clean the respective site. In the cases where the PRP cannot be found, or they no longer exist, the Superfund used to receive funds from a tax levied on the oil, gas, and petroleum industry.


That tax is no longer utilized, though many environmental groups think it should be restored, and the Superfund receives the funds in those cases from a general spending fund through Congress. They also have a trust fund in place to handle certain aspects of the functionality of the program.


In my experience with the EPA, I have found them to be very professional and they have the right expertise needed to solve some very difficult pollution or contamination issues. Their approach is not the “quick fix” solution, rather it is the big picture, long term solutions that they favor to adequately address the pollution to insure that the affected area remains clean for a sustained period in the future.


Their approach also works, in my opinion, because it has several steps involved which account for changes in the priorities of a given site remediation project. It also incorporates the community in the decision making process and has set protocols that work very well for that exchange of ideas. This portion of the process is particularly important in today’s world of interactivity and social media, so the general public and the business community feel involved in the project, which creates a scenario where effective changes to the site can take place.


Furthermore, in my research and in my past interactions with the EPA, I view the Superfund as an example of a federal government program that is well thought out and actually works effectively. It is essentially the public’s check and balance against the potential for corporate or industrial disregard for environmental safety protocols.


I also understand the criticism of the Superfund, that it can be a cumbersome process filled with “red tape” and that it is costly to clean the sites to their standards. However, the central task I see being posed to both the EPA and the Superfund is concerning the public safety and the safety of our natural resources.


If you view the Superfund through that prism, with the public safety aspect as well as the safety of our resources such as drinking water; then I pose to those critics: How much money is that worth to you and the future of your family?


The future of the Superfund is one where it will likely take on an important role in the changing landscape of American industry. Anyone watching the evening news or checking out the CBS News website on their laptop or mobile device knows that America has seen the manufacturing sector shipped overseas to Asia and other emerging markets.


However, as the push back of the American public for more “made in America” products continues to gain traction, the EPA has to be ready to insure that the return of manufacturing is not correlated with the return of heavy industrial pollution.


The other major area for Superfund involvement is the before mentioned fracking, and other energy or mining activities which could perilously endanger our drinking water and other natural resources. I predict a future where the EPA will, through Superfund, play a vital role in the restoration of areas used for energy or mining development.


I wrote this article series because in many conversations I was having, I realized that many people were not aware of what the Superfund was, or what it was designed to achieve. I covered a great deal of information, and I feel like I only scratched the surface. The program has so many layers and sub-sections associated with it, that you can certainly feel free to visit the EPA website for further information on the role of the Superfund.


The other question which I was asked often when I told people that I was working on this article series was: which state has the fewest Superfund sites?  I presume it is out of curiosity because New Jersey has the most sites on the list (113 sites). However, some of those people told me that they wanted to look into moving their families to that state. Other states with a large number of Superfund sites are California with 97 and New York with 95.



The answer to that question is North Dakota with 0 sites on the list, though that could change in subsequent years based on the recent increase in fracking activities there by big energy producing corporations.


Some other states with very small numbers of sites are Nevada with 1, South Dakota with 2, Wyoming with 2, and Hawaii has 3.


The future for the Superfund will be marked with increasingly difficult potential chemical remediation projects, projects which feature sites that have seepage of pollutants deep into the ground as a result of new technologies such as fracking for natural gas or in the mining of other resources. In any case, the EPA will be ready and prepared for the complex challenges ahead as they strive to keep our land and water clean and safe both today and for the generations to follow.




Superfund: Cleaning America – Part 4

The article series on the Superfund has provided a detailed view of the foundation of the program, the types of contamination commonly found on industrial sites, the enforcement methods used by the EPA against the parties responsible for the pollution, the involvement of the community, and spill response protocols. The previous section, Part 3, looked at New Jersey, the state with the highest number of Superfund sites and explored the state level program for environmental cleanup compared to the EPA program.

This installment of the series will examine the criticisms facing the Superfund program from the American public and business community. It will then focus on the Gowanus Canal site in Brooklyn, one of the most challenging sites the Superfund has ever faced.



Criticisms of Superfund


The critics of this government program for environmental cleanup of the worst and most heavily polluted sites in the country feel that the Superfund program is too costly and that it is overly bureaucratic.


These criticisms can be easy for someone outside of the system to make without the full knowledge of what the EPA and the Superfund set out to accomplish. On the surface, it can look like a very expensive program with too much “red tape” and regulations.


However, the reality is that the levels of pollution and toxicity are so rampant and have permeated so deeply into some of these sites, the approach to cleaning them properly is often unclear. In some cases, the polluted materials have sat there for several years, even decades, which creates conditions which are very complicated to remediate.


The argument could be made that the Superfund program is so expensive because of the negligence of the actions by the corporations or entities that operated on the respective sites.  The regulations involved in Superfund are necessary because these types of site cleanups are highly complex and that requires a multi-layered approach to insure the integrity of the process is maintained.


In the event that some of the regulations were relaxed in relation to the Superfund procedures, then the risk of an error in the process would bring a tremendous amount of scrutiny to the entire program. The money involved has the tendency to create an environment where they could have wasted resources involved in the process. The “red tape” creates safeguards to prevent funds from being spent incorrectly.


The types and methods for cleanup of these highly polluted sites characteristically are very time consuming in order to be done thoroughly. This long duration of time involved in the remediation of the respective site also creates a situation where the program is criticized, and sometimes harshly criticized.


America is defined by a society of instant gratification where results are expected in a very short time frame. The Superfund site remediation process requires several years of activity from start to finish. This lengthy process timeline can be criticized by members of the government, the media, and the general public.


In response to this criticism, the EPA has made a concerted effort to maximize the news of their successful remediation projects from the Superfund program. The news of this type of success can have very positive impact on the public opinion of the Superfund program. It is easy for most people and groups to get excited about the news of a clean and safe area which used to be polluted with toxic materials.



The Gowanus Canal Site


This site already has generated a great deal of news headlines over the years since it was added as a Superfund site in March 2010, but especially in the closing months of 2013 when the EPA announced their plans for the final stages of the remediation of this heavily polluted area.


In my view, the component of this particular site which is the most compelling is that it is located within such a densely populated area in Brooklyn. This setting made it very difficult to clean up, yet a pressing priority to do so, amidst some very complex circumstances.


Additionally, the canal site was further complicated by the sheer volume of the contamination there which took place over a period of over 150 years. The canal was most heavily trafficked from 1860 -1960 and residents complain of the smell emanating from the area in recent years (www.nytimes.com).


This site will be one of the biggest challenges for the EPA since their first site remediation project at Love Canal in upstate New York. It would require them to go back to the drawing board with multiple plans for the site cleanup based on community and state government feedback.


The Plan to Clean the Canal


The EPA plan for the remediation of the Gowanus Canal site was just recently finalized, and according to a variety of media sources and the EPA press release, the cleanup will take place over the course of 10 – 12 years and cost $506 million.


The plan calls for the removal of contaminated sediment, a cap on the dredged areas, and the disposal of most of the sediment will be done out of the area at another facility. The original plans called for the construction of a facility to handle the disposed waste on the shores of the canal in the Red Hook area, but through community input, that plan was scrapped.


The canal has very high levels of contamination from the industrial activity that took place there as well as from sewage discharge from overflows in the New York City sewer system. The EPA estimates that the Gowanus site might be one of the worst and most polluted waterways in the entire country.


The industrial contaminants involved include: PAH, PCBs, and coal tar. All of these substances are very hazardous on their own, but this site has each one of them present. PAH is a group of chemicals caused by the incomplete burning of coal, oil, gas, wood, and garbage (www.epa.gov). PCBs are a group of chemicals which were contained in coolants and lubricants used in transformers and other electrical equipment until their use was banned in 1979. Both of these chemical groups are cancer causing.


Coal tar is present as a result of the heavy burning of coal which took place in the factories and plants along the canal during the Industrial Revolution. The coal tar remained at high levels and is a very hazardous material particularly when it penetrates underground, as it has at the Gowanus Canal site. When coal tar is gasified it releases cancer causing vapors (www.epa.gov).


The EPA has segmented the canal into 3 portions for the cleanup process:


  1. Upper: includes the area from the top of the canal to the 3rd Street Bridge
  2. Middle: includes the area from the 3rd Street Bridge to Hamilton Ave Bridge (this section is the most highly contaminated part of the site)
  3. Lower: includes the Hamilton Ave Bridge to the mouth of the canal (this section is the least contaminated portion of the site)


The canal was once home to gas plants, tanneries, chemical plants, and dye manufacturing plants. The industrial pollution coupled with the rainwater runoff from the storm drains as well as the previously mentioned sewage overflows created horrible conditions in the canal.


The finalized remediation plan for the Gowanus site requires that the EPA will dredge from the upper and middle portions of the canal a total of 307,000 cubic yards of very highly contaminated sediment (www.epa.gov).


Then, the EPA will take the liquid coal tar that is still bubbling out of the sediment and mix it with cement. Then they will use multiple layers to clean and remediate the site. The “active” layer uses absorbent material designed to remove PAH contaminants.


The “isolation” layer is made up of gravel and sand which insulates the remaining pollutants from exposure. The “armor” layer consists of heavy gravel and stone to prevent erosion of the other layers caused by boats and the changing water currents.


Finally, a layer of clean sand will cover the “armor” layer and serve to restore the canal bed to a natural habitat.


The same process of layering will be repeated in the lower section where the EPA anticipates dredging 280,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment. In the lower section, the 1st Street turning basin will be remediated by the removal of contaminates and the restoration of 475 feet of the basin (www.epa.gov).


The 5th Street turning basin will be completely excavated and restored.


Any liquid coal tar found in the sediment will be removed and transported to a treatment facility out of the area. The EPA also wanted to insure that sewage control mechanisms were put in place as part of the final plan for the cleanup of the site.


Consequently, the EPA will be installing retention tanks at two outfalls in the upper segment of the canal in order to reduce the overflow of contaminated sewage. If these tanks were not installed then the sewage overflow would contaminate the canal again soon after the EPA finished their remediation work.


I mentioned earlier the search procedures that EPA and the Superfund conducts to identify the parties responsible for the pollution at a given site. That component was a point of contention in the Gowanus Canal site because the State of New York wanted to handle the remediation themselves and raise the money through city and state taxes. The state government argued that they could do the Gowanus cleanup faster than the EPA because they were not going to pursue any of the corporate or industrial entities potentially responsible for the pollution.


The EPA ended up gaining the responsibility for the site and they have identified some responsible parties including the State of New York, and the large energy supplier known as National Grid. National Grid purchased the land from other companies in three highly polluted lots along the canal several years ago and took no action to clean up the area (www.epa.gov). All three lots were the former location of three separate natural gas production facilities.


Several other responsible parties have been identified by the EPA and are being pursued for the funds needed to begin the dredging and cleanup, which some news sources are reporting will not begin until 2016.


In the end analysis, the Gowanus Canal site is a catastrophic area of pollution that had to be addressed and remediated in the correct way. In this era of recessionary economic activity, shrinking wages, chronically high unemployment levels, and a high cost of living in New York; the solution of using more taxes to fund the cleanup of the canal would not have been feasible.


The EPA through the Superfund designation offered the terribly polluted site the best chance to be cleaned and thoroughly remediated to restore the canal appropriately. It may take a longer amount of time for the EPA to complete the project, but it will be done in a highly effective manner by people who have the expertise needed to fix a site as badly contaminated as the Gowanus Canal is in its current state.

The next and final component of this article series will take a look at the feedback I have received before and during the process of writing this article series. It will conclude with a look at the future prospects of this important environmental protection program.