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Bridge authority assailed for lack of transparency

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Governor Andrew Cuomo visits Niagara Falls today as another storm could be brewing for his administration. It appears some of Cuomo's appointees to the Peace Bridge Authority may have acted improperly.

"I think the governor absolutely has a transparency problem," said Erin Heaney, Executive Director of the Clean Air Coalition.

Heaney offered comment in reaction to a report in Thursday's Buffalo News. The story focused on an April meeting of the Peace Bridge Authority Board where members are talking about  "brainwashing" the public and not quote "kicking sleeping dogs."

"Part of what they're referring to is a civil rights complaint that our members filed because they felt they were being cut out of the process for planning the Niagara Gateway Improvement Project," Heaney explained.

"Sam Hoyt (Chairman of the Peace Bridge Authority) at times called it nonsense and it seems that behind closed doors, they were trying to figure out ways to make sure that the community was appeased and went away so that we wouldn't cause any trouble."  

Heaney says while Cuomo's appointees are busy cutting backdoor deals, people living near the Peace Bridge are suffering from asthma and other illnesses linked to diesel exhaust.

According to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act to PEER- Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility- taxpayer dollars were illegally spent on the project before a mandatory federal environmental review was finalized.

In Buffalo Thursday, Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy told WBFO News he doesn't think it was "anyone's intent to violate anything."

Duffy gives Cuomo credit for trying to break through the gridlock.  

"The governor has and the state and DOT have done more to get this process moving along which has been stalled for so long. And I've been involved to some degree in the past, relative to the Peace Bridge. We all want work to be done. Done safely and effectively." 

Heaney says the Clean Air Coalition is looking into a possible legal challenge to the project. PEER is seeking an investigation by the White House Council on Environmental Quality and is vowing to stay on the case until the murky matters are cleared up.