April 20, 2010

Assembly Passes Earth Day Legislation

Fourteen-Bill Package Includes Provisions That Would Increase Wetland Protections, Prohibit the Use of Dangerous Toxic Materials in the Manufacturing of Toys and Electronic Goods and Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Robert Sweeney today announced the passage of legislation in honor of Earth Day. Measures in this package include several proposals previously passed by the Assembly, as well as new legislation, intended to promote the health and well-being of New Yorkers while minimizing harmful effects on the environment.

"As environmental issues have moved into the forefront of the public consciousness, it's imperative that we institute greater regulatory measures to ensure the health of New Yorkers and the preservation of limited natural resources," said Silver (D-Manhattan). "I applaud my colleagues in the Assembly Majority for recognizing the importance of protecting our environment."

"We must continue looking for ways to better protect New Yorkers and our environment from hazardous waste, harmful toxins and greenhouse gases," said Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst). "This package of bills includes measures that will help to reduce emissions and encourage the use of green, recyclable materials. The legislation will advance policies that will provide a cleaner, safer environment for New Yorkers today and for future generations."

Harmful greenhouse gas emissions- from such sources as the burning of coal and automobile emissions-have been demonstrably linked to global warming. Legislation passed by the Assembly would require the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to establish rules for reporting statewide greenhouse gas emissions by May 1, 2011 (A.7572-A/Sweeney). The bill would set limits on greenhouse gas emissions, mandating that by 2020, the level would be reduced by 20 percent. By 2050, greenhouse gas emissions would be would be required to be 80 percent below the 1990 levels. Under the legislation, New York would match similar standards established in several other states.

The New York State Healthy and Green Procurement Act sets procurement and construction standards for state agencies that prioritize purchasing and planning that will reduce adverse environmental and health affects (A.7038-A/Sweeney). The bill also seeks to increase energy efficiency in state capital improvement projects, while reducing the creation of solid waste and use of harmful chemicals.

The Assembly also approved legislation which would:

Recognizing that certain areas of the state may be more susceptible to environmental hazards, the Assembly passed legislation directing the DEC to publish a biennial list of high local environmental impact zones based on factors including the amount of waste and toxic chemical emissions, pesticide sales and use and inactive hazardous waste disposal sites (A.8489-A/Peoples-Stokes). Also included in the Earth Day package is a measure which would create an environmental justice advisory group to ensure that no race, ethnicity or socioeconomic group of individuals bears a disproportionate share of negative environmental consequences (A.8490-A/Peoples-Stokes).

Today's package also includes proposals aimed at strengthening wetland protections. One measure would increase the civil penalty for violation of the protection of freshwater wetlands provision from $3,000 to $10,000 and require violators to restore the area adjacent to the freshwater wetland, as well the wetland itself (A.4807/Sweeney). Additionally, each day a violation continued would count as a separate violation. The Assembly also passed a measure which would provide the DEC authority over freshwater wetlands one acre or more in size (A.6363/Sweeney). This would remedy the problem of isolated wetlands no longer being protected by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as a result of Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006.