Legislative Report from the
NYS Assembly Committee on
|Sheldon Silver, Speaker • Robert K. Sweeney, Chair • September 2008|
(Chapter 390 of the Laws of 2008)
The Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP) was enacted into law in 2003 to encourage the cleanup of contaminated sites. Since its enactment, there have been a number of revisions to improve the efficacy of the program. This year, legislation was passed to encourage greater accountability and transparency in the program by modifying tax credits to encourage cleaner clean ups and increase agency reporting. Specifically, this legislation would:
The Assembly has supported a number of initiatives to mitigate climate change, including legislation to establish an emissions cap and to provide funding for increased energy efficiency and clean renewable energy sources:
Emissions Cap: This legislation (A.10303, Sweeney) would require the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to establish a cap, not to exceed 1990 levels, and decreasing in January 2015 by 2.3 percent of the original limit each year thereafter until it is decreased by 80 percent in 2050, on greenhouse gas emissions including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbon, perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluroride and any other gas determined by DEC to be a significant contributor to global warming. The cap would include all emission sources associated with fossil fuels, used by manufacturers and distributors of fossil fuels, including oil refineries, oil storage and natural gas pipelines; utility generating or delivering electricity consumed in the State or generated outside the State and imported into the State, and any other source determined to be a contributor by DEC. This legislation passed the Assembly, but the Senate has not yet taken action.
Funding: This legislation (A.7365-A, Sweeney and A.7366-A, Gianaris) would require that State funds raised from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) be used to promote energy efficiency, enhance the state’s air quality and develop clean, renewable sources of energy. This legislation passed the Assembly, but the Senate has not yet taken action.
Great Lakes Compact moves through the States
The Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact (A.7266-B, Sweeney) was signed into law in New York State in March 2008. The Compact legislation was enacted subsequently in all eight of the Great Lakes States, making it eligible for Congressional ratification. The Compact is the result of a multi-year international effort to create enforceable guidelines for protecting the waters of the Great Lakes Basin. Upon ratification by Congress, the Compact will become the first enforceable, uniform water management regime to be enacted throughout the Great Lakes Basin.
The Great Lakes Basin is composed of five of the largest freshwater lakes in the world. The Great Lakes and their bays and tributaries contain 20 percent of the world’s supply of freshwater and 95 percent of North America’s supply of surface freshwater. The Great Lakes represent an invaluable natural resource for the people living within and along the Basin boundaries. Approximately 80 percent of New York’s fresh surface water and over 700 miles of New York’s shoreline are within the drainage basins of Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, and the St. Lawrence River.
Although the Great Lakes are large, they are also vulnerable. Only a small percentage of the waters of the basin are recharged annually, and the Great Lakes are susceptible to the effects of increased demands from municipalities and industries and changes in water recharge patterns including rain, runoff, and snowmelt. The Great Lakes Compact is an effort to manage and sustain these valuable resources so that their economic, ecological and social benefits can be enjoyed by future generations.
Plastic Bag Reuse and Recycling Act
An estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year. Billions end up as litter or take up valuable space in landfills. Plastic bags do not biodegrade but instead break down into smaller toxic bits contaminating soil and waterways and suffocating marine life. In addition, the manufacturing process for plastic bags uses over 12 million barrels of oil each year.
This legislation (A.11725 Rules-Sweeney) would enact the “Plastic Bag Reuse and Recycling Act” to require stores over 10,000 square feet, or stores with five or more locations over 5,000 square feet, to make reusable bags available and accept plastic bags for recycling. This legislation passed both Houses and is awaiting action by the Governor.
Recent testing of public water supplies has revealed the presence of trace amounts of pharmaceuticals believed to have resulted in part from the improper disposal of prescription and non-prescription drugs. This legislation (A.840-B Englebright) would require the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), in consultation with the Department of Health, to develop and implement a public information program on the proper disposal of prescription and non-prescription drugs. In addition, this bill would also authorize the DEC to conduct a drug disposal demonstration program. This legislation passed both Houses and is awaiting action by the Governor.
Increasingly, scientists have become interested in the link between the environment and public health. This legislation (A.1143-B Brodsky) would require the Department of Environmental Conservation, in cooperation with the Health Research Science Board, to collect and develop information on environmental facilities and cancer cases in order to facilitate the plotting of the information on computer-generated cancer maps. This legislation passed both Houses and is awaiting action by the Governor.
Currently, landlords are not required to notify tenants of known contamination including vapor intrusion that has occurred on the property. As a result, some tenants have been unknowingly exposed to environmental hazards such as vapor intrusion. This legislation (A.10952-B Lupardo) would require property owners to provide notification of the results of indoor air quality testing to current and prospective tenants. This legislation passed both Houses and is awaiting action by the Governor.
Bigger, Better Bottle Bill
Since the enactment of the Bottle Bill in 1982, non-carbonated drinks have become increasingly popular and now represent a substantial portion of beverage purchases. This legislation (A.8044-A Sweeney) would capitalize on the success of the original Bottle Bill to expand New York's beverage container deposit and recycling program to include a five-cent deposit on non-carbonated beverages such as bottled water, sports drinks, juices and iced tea. It would also turn over unclaimed deposits, which are currently kept by distributors and bottlers, to the state's Environmental Protection Fund. This legislation passed the Assembly, but the Senate has not yet taken action.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that in 2004, there were approximately 1.2 billion pounds of covered electronic equipment sold in the United States. As new devices are purchased, the replaced equipment frequently ends up in a landfill where its chemical components, including mercury, lead and cadmium, can contribute to pollution. This legislation (A.8444-B Sweeney) would establish an electronic equipment recycling and reuse program to allow consumers to return unwanted electronic devices to manufacturers for reuse or recycling. This legislation passed the Assembly, but the Senate has not yet taken action.
Wetlands improve drinking water quality by providing a buffer zone to intercept polluted runoff before it contaminates lakes, rivers and coastal waters. Wetlands act as natural water filters, absorbing pollutants, pesticides, nitrogen, phosphorus and other contaminants before they infiltrate our drinking water. Additionally, wetlands absorb flood waters and serve as buffers during storms, saving billions of dollars in property damage annually. This legislation (A.7133 Sweeney) would strengthen and enhance the state’s wetland protection laws by expanding the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) regulatory jurisdiction. The current law restricts DEC’s oversight of wetlands to areas that exceed 12.4 acres. This bill would authorize DEC to oversee wetland areas of one acre (or smaller, if adjacent to a body of water or of special significance), in order to ensure the continued protection of wetlands, which were previously regulated by the federal government. This legislation passed the Assembly, but the Senate has not yet taken action.
The siting of projects with potential adverse environmental impacts is a complex and difficult process. Local residents are never in favor of having such projects located in their communities, and thus government decision makers must undertake a difficult balancing of competing interests in order to select the most appropriate location for the project. Historically, geographical areas with existing environmental hazards have frequently been selected for the placement of new projects, presumably due to the belief that the "incremental" adverse impact would be less in such an area than in a "pristine" area with no existing environmental problems. Unfortunately, this process can lead to a concentration of environmental hazards within a small geographical area, and a concomitant increased risk to residents of those areas. This bill (A.2002 R. Diaz) would require the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to consider environmental justice issues when conducting the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQRA) process. In addition, DEC would be required to publish a list of those areas in the state that are most adversely affected by existing environmental hazards. This legislation passed the Assembly, but the Senate has not yet taken action.
State Pesticide Phase-out
This bill (A.1142-A Brodsky) would phase out the use of pesticides on state property and require the development of state property pest management procedures. In addition, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) would be required to develop a pest management plan that identifies methods for monitoring pest populations and compile a list of the least toxic pesticides that are to be used before January 1, 2009. To help state agencies comply with the total pesticide phase out, DEC would be mandated to identify non-chemical pest control strategies for use after that date. This legislation passed the Assembly, but the Senate has not yet taken action.
Reverse Vending Machines
Long lines to return beverage containers are cited frequently as a reason why containers were not returned. This bill (A.10637-C John) would establish requirements for the number of reverse vending machines required to be located at large retail stores in order to facilitate bottle returns. This legislation passed the Assembly, but the Senate has not yet taken action.
Children’s Environmental Health
The New York State 2008-09 budget contains funding for the establishment of a network of seven Children’s Environmental Health Centers to examine environmental factors associated with illnesses such as asthma, lead poisoning, cancer and birth defects.
The 2008-09 funds will assist the Children’s Environmental Health Centers increase the accuracy of diagnosis and improve the treatment of children’s diseases caused by environmental factors. Currently, only 20 percent of doctors in New York State have undergone this type of training.
More and more children in New York State are being afflicted with chronic illnesses of environmental origin, like asthma, lead poisoning and cancer. In order to better understand, accurately diagnose and effectively treat these illnesses additional research is required.
“Our goal with these funding allocations is to help prevent diseases caused by environmental factors and strengthen and expand educational programs in children’s environmental health for families and professionals at all levels,” said Assemblyman Sweeney.
The following elite medical and research facilities in New York State will be awarded funds:
2008 SUPER BILL STATUS
Super Bills are identified by the members of the Green Panel, which includes representatives of the state's leading environmental organizations.
Wetlands Protection Act
The Global Warming Pollution Cap/Greenhouse Gas Pollution
The Bigger Better Bottle Bill
Solar and Wind Net Metering Reforms
New York State Assembly
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