News from the
Assembly Committee on
The Assembly Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation took action on a number of important issues this past year – from passing all four of the Environmental Super Bills to increasing funding for the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) to a record high $225 million in 2006, the Assembly continues to be a leader on environmental protection.
For years research has focused on the correlation between the environment and our health. This year, the Assembly has secured $200,000 for Children’s Environmental Health Centers that will increase the accuracy of diagnosis and improve the treatment of children’s diseases caused by environmental factors. The Committee also held a hearing to examine the benefits and costs of requiring New York State to give preferences to green products and green services in its procurement process. This hearing was a logical follow-up to a law enacted in 2005 that I sponsored which requires all elementary and secondary schools in New York State to use cleaning and maintenance products which minimize adverse impacts on children’s health and the environment.
The newsletter also highlights other legislation that the Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee has focused on this year. I am proud of what we have accomplished to protect our most valuable natural resources, but much more still needs to be done.
I look forward to working with the Senate and Governor-Elect Spitzer to ensure a healthy environment for both today’s New Yorkers and future generations.
|Red Jacket Orchards – Assemblyman DiNapoli discussing environmental issues with orchardist Mark Nicholson at Red Jacket Orchards in Geneva, New York. Also shown in the picture are Farm Bureau representatives (rear, from left to right) Pat Hooker, Jeff Williams and Julie Suarez.||Joined by Assemblyman Canestrari (second from left) and Assemblywoman Destito (fifth from the right), Assemblyman DiNapoli presents members of the Tree Farm Program with a resolution honoring them for 50 years of promoting sustainable forestry.|
|Environmental Super Bills 2006|
Assembly Passes All Four, Senate None
Last year, for the first time ever, certain environmental bills were designated “Super Bills” by the Green Panel, which is made up of state environmental leaders. According to the Green Panel, these legislative proposals address particularly urgent or timely environmental issues facing New Yorkers.
“Once again the ‘Super Bill’ designation served to focus the Legislature’s attention on specific environmental initiatives, and resulted in Assembly passage of all four bills,” said Assemblyman DiNapoli.
For the second year in a row, the Assembly has passed all of the Super Bills, while the Senate has failed to pass any of them. The four Super Bills for 2006 were:
As the prime-sponsor of all four Super Bills, Assemblyman DiNapoli worked hard to ensure Assembly passage of these measures. Unfortunately, the Senate failed to bring any of the bills to the floor for a vote despite strong bi-partisan support for several of the measures.
Greening the Economy
DiNapoli, Destito Hold Hearing on State Procurement of Green Products
Assemblyman DiNapoli and Assemblywoman Destito, Chairwoman of the Assembly Standing Committee on Governmental Operations, held a joint public hearing in May 2006 to examine the benefits and costs of adopting state policies that favor buying green products. Testimony was presented by government officials and environmental health and procurement experts.
Assemblywoman Destito stated, “Green purchasing is gaining momentum across the country. More and more state and local governments are adopting policies that favor the purchase of products that avoid or minimize the use of toxic chemicals, cause less pollution and waste and conserve natural resources. As we move in this direction, it is important to ensure that green products are cost effective and perform adequately to meet their intended purpose.”
“Green procurement reflects a new, preventive approach to protecting public health. Instead of waiting for more certain knowledge regarding the dangers posed by the over 80,000 chemicals currently used in commerce, government can take positive steps to invest in products that avoid or minimize the use of potentially toxic chemicals,” DiNapoli said.
The testimony submitted was overwhelmingly positive in support of the state’s purchase of green products. Testimony documented that many green products perform just as well as conventional products and are comparable in price. In fact, a large number, including green cleaners, paint, remanufactured toner cartridges and many recycled building and construction products are less expensive.
New York is already moving toward green procurement in a number of areas. A new green cleaning law, sponsored by Assemblyman DiNapoli and Senator Saland, was enacted in 2005 (Chapter 584). It requires all elementary and secondary schools in New York State to use cleaning and maintenance products which minimize adverse impacts on children’s health and the environment which began on September 1, 2006.
In addition, since January 2005, all state agencies and facilities have been required by executive order to use environmentally preferable cleaning products. The State Office of General Services (OGS), charged with implementing these new laws and initiatives, is currently developing guidelines for green cleaning products.
However, there is much more for the state to do. For example, legislation introduced in 2005 by Assemblyman DiNapoli and Senator Carl Marcellino (A.7257 / S.4544) would require all state and local government agencies to buy safe and sustainable products and services.
“The purpose of green procurement is to use the power of state investment to foster innovation in the private sector and harness the power of the market to create clean products that perform better and cost less than currently available alternatives. The end result will benefit public health, the environment, and the economy,” DiNapoli concluded.
|Environmental Hearings Lead to Legislation|
In 2005 and 2006, the Environmental Conservation Committee held a number of hearings across the State on various water related issues. Below is a review of some of the legislation introduced to address problems identified during these hearings.
Dam SafetyOn February 6, 2006, a Dam Safety hearing was held at the Schenectady County Community College, near the Gilboa Dam. This hearing followed a recent dam failure in Washington County and extensive flooding in areas around the State, particularly in the Catskills, location of several of New York City’s water supply dams. The hearing examined various dam safety concerns including regulatory oversight of dams in New York State. The legislative proposals resulting from this hearing include A.9517, which requires DEC to provide copies of dam safety inspection reports to the Chief Executive Officers (CEO) of municipalities where intermediate or high hazard dams are located. This bill was signed into law (Chapter 17 of the Laws of 2006). Additional legislative proposals
Water Quality in the Adirondacks
Water quality concerns are not limited to the ocean or coastal areas. In 2005, the Assembly held a hearing on water quality in the Adirondacks, soliciting testimony to assist State and local policy makers in determining how to address invasive species and mercury levels in the Adirondacks. A number of recommendations came out of this hearing, including funding of invasive species programs in the State. This year, the Assembly was able to secure $3 million in the EPF to fund invasive species initiatives.
Tax Credit for Land Conservation
As part of the 2006-07 budget, Assemblyman DiNapoli’s proposal to provide an income tax credit of up to $5,000 annually for twenty-five percent of school district, county and town real property taxes paid on land that is under a conservation easement, was signed into law.
All across New York State, there have been many real success stories involving both local and state efforts to conserve land. But, land conservation requires not just public action, but private efforts as well. This new tax credit recognizes the on-going public benefits provided by privately owned land that is permanently protected by a conservation easement.
With development pressures mounting across the State, public officials and private citizens are feeling a new urgency about land conservation. “We are in a race against the clock when it comes to conserving New York State’s open space and agricultural lands,” said Assemblyman DiNapoli, “and this tax credit will provide an important new incentive for landowners to conserve their land, especially those who could not otherwise afford to do so.”
|Record Setting $225 Million for EPF|
Then there was more good news as the Executive Budget proposed to increase the EPF from its $150 million level for the 2005-06 fiscal year, to $180 million for the 2006-07 fiscal year. Then the Assembly budget proposal brought even better news, as it included $200 million for the EPF.
Then came the first setback, when the Senate limited their proposed appropriation for the EPF to $180 million. But the Budget Conference Committee process produced good news again, when the Assembly and Senate agreed on a figure of $200 million for the EPF.
But alas, more bad news followed, as the Governor failed to “resubmit” a budget bill containing the necessary authorizations for the EPF. However, the Assembly then provided a bit of light in what was an increasingly dark outlook for the EPF, when the EPF Enhancement Act passed unanimously. Unfortunately, the Senate did not pass the bill, but, after an agonizing two and a half months, the EPF’s bumpy ride came to a jubilant end as the Governor finally resubmitted the portion of the budget containing the EPF. And it was worth the wait, as the final enacted funding level for the EPF was a record-high $225 million.
This is terrific news for New York’s environment, as it means substantial increases in traditional EPF programs such as municipal parks, waterfront revitalization, municipal recycling, open space land acquisition, non-point source pollution control and farmland protection. In addition, the extra funding will provide support for three new categories: one for water quality improvement, one for invasive species and the other for the Atlantic Ocean and Great Lakes.
|Reducing Diesel Emission in Our Air|
Legislation to address the public health threat posed by the combustion of diesel fuel was recently signed into law. The Diesel Emission Reduction Act (A.11340, Chapt. 629 Laws of 2006) sponsored by Assemblyman Grannis and Assemblyman DiNapoli will require that all State-owned heavy duty vehicles and those under contract with the State use ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel (ULSD). It also requires these vehicles to be fitted with the best available retrofit technologies to further reduce tailpipe emissions.
Diesel exhaust particle pollution is a clear and present health threat to New Yorkers. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, diesel exhaust particles are a likely lung cancer agent. Diesel exhaust is also a prime contributor to the formation of ground level ozone, a powerful respiratory irritant that is linked to premature death, asthma attacks and can damage the lung tissue of children.
Nearly ninety percent of New Yorkers live in an area that fails to meet federal health standards for ozone. The counties of Westchester, Orange, Rockland, Bronx, Kings, Queens, New York, Richmond, Nassau and Suffolk are also listed as being out of attainment for the fine particle federal health standard.
New York State consumes over 48 million gallons of diesel fuel each year and owns or operates through contract thousands of diesel-powered vehicles. The use of ULSD in conjunction with best available retrofit technologies will result in a dramatic reduction in emissions of particulates and nitrogen oxides (NOx). In fact it has been estimated that this legislation would result in a reduction of 17,000 tons of NOx, which equates to three or four coal-fired power plants.
“The burning of high sulfur diesel fuel is bad for our health and bad for our environment,” said Assemblyman DiNapoli. “With low-sulfur diesel now readily available, this legislation takes the logical step of expanding the list of vehicles required to use this fuel,” DiNapoli concluded.
|Assemblyman DiNapoli and John Mueller of Spring Hope Dairy Farm in Hopewell, New York, engaged in conversation about CAFO compliance and other environmental management challenges for dairy farms.|
|Children’s Environmental Health Centers of Excellence|
Chronic diseases of environmental origin are an increasing problem for children of New York State. These include asthma; lead poisoning; cancer; birth defects; mental retardation; autism; ADHD; and behavioral, learning and psychiatric disorders. Environmental links have already been established for many of these chronic health issues, and research is continuing to provide new evidence each day.
Health care providers can provide immediate help and limit children’s exposure to environmental hazards through parental education, identification of hazardous exposures, diagnosis and treatment of children and advocating for prevention. However, facilities where children can be seen and evaluated for environmental exposures are relatively few and widely dispersed across the nation. In New York many physicians are not trained to suspect the environment as a cause of disease, with less than 20% of pediatricians receiving specific training in environmental history taking.
“An efficient and effective approach to stem the tide of the chronic disease epidemic in New York’s children is to establish a statewide system of Children’s Environmental Health Centers of Excellence,” stated Assemblyman DiNapoli.
These Centers of Excellence will increase the accuracy of diagnosis and improve the treatment of children’s diseases caused by environmental factors; help to prevent diseases caused by environmental factors; better quantify and qualify children’s diseases of environmental origin; and will strengthen and expand educational programs in children’s environmental health for professionals at all levels. With the Assembly effort to ensure that $200,000 was made available through the fiscal year 2006-07 Budget, this essential funding can be distributed to the six designated regional centers that are located in New York City, Long Island, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo.
|Environmental Conservation Highlights|
This year, the Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee had 38 bills pass both houses of the legislature.
Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem Protection Act This bill would provide for the protection of New York’s ocean and Great Lakes coastal resources. The New York Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation Council would be established to integrate and coordinate the state’s programs, institutions and activities to protect, conserve and restore those resources. (A.10584-B / S.8380; Chapt. 432 Laws of 2006)
Environmental Test Reporting This bill would require the Department of Environmental Conservation to notify property owners of environmental contamination and potential exposure to potential health risks. (A.10633-A / S.7636-A; Chapt. 707 Laws of 2006)
Diesel Emissions Reduction Act This bill would help address the public health threat posed by the combustion of diesel fuel by requiring that all state-owned heavy duty vehicles and those under contract with the state use ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel. It also requires these vehicles to be fitted with best available retrofit technologies to further reduce tailpipe emissions. (A.11340 / S.8185; Chapt. 629 Laws of 2006)
Seagrass Task Force Seagrass is regarded as an essential habitat for marine species and vitally important to restoring Long Island’s finfish, shellfish, crustacean and waterfowl populations. This bill would establish a seagrass research, monitoring and restoration task force to examine and make recommendations on the means of preserving and properly managing seagrass. (A.11523 / S.8052; Chapt. 404 Laws of 2006)
Mercury-Free Vehicles This bill would phase-out the use of mercury-added components in motor vehicles over two years. Under the bill, a state purchasing preference would be granted for vehicles that are mercury-free. (A.10621-A / S.7961; Chapt. 611 Laws of 2006)
Regulating Vehicle Dismantlers This bill would protect the environment by regulating vehicle dismantlers, including restrictions on the storage and processing of vehicles as well as reporting requirements. (A.7633-B / S.8405; Chapt. 280, Laws of 2006)
Hazardous Substance Spills Reporting This bill would require the Department of Environmental Conservation to notify communities affected by hazardous spills within 48 hours of the Department being notified of the problem. (A.10757-B / S.7307-B; Chapt. 616 Laws of 2006)
Hudson River Greenway This bill would add areas of Ulster County within the Catskill Park to the Hudson River Valley Greenway. (A.11338 / S.7013; Chapt. 271 Laws of 2006)
Peconic Bay Region Watershed Protection Act This bill would encourage and support initiatives to protect the natural resources of the Peconic Bay watershed, one of the state’s richest natural treasures. (A.7893-D / S.1365-D; Chapt. 289 Laws of 2006)
Saratoga-Washington Partnership This bill would create a Historic Saratoga-Washington on the Hudson Partnership to address such issues as collaborative agriculture, open space protection, tourism development, recreational development, the protection of natural and cultural heritage and the revitalization of main streets. (A.11839-B / S.8444; Chapt. 737 Laws of 2006)
Fishing Promotion Program This bill would establish a fishing promotion program to promote fishing within New York State. (A.5808-C / S.3232-A; Chapt. 576 Laws of 2006)
Phasing Out Hazardous Creosote The use of creosote has been linked to a number of health problems for workers and the contamination of surface and ground water. This bill would phase-out the manufacturing, sale and use of creosote and regulate its disposal. (A.10737 / S.7804; Passed Both Houses)
Wireless Telephone Recycling This bill would require retailers of wireless telephones to accept such telephones for recycling or reuse. (A.3390-A / S.8383; Passed Both Houses)
|Passed the Assembly|
Wetland Protections This bill 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. Under the bill, DEC would be authorized to oversee wetland areas of 1 acre (or smaller, if adjacent to a water body or of special significance), in order to ensure the continued protection of wetlands, which were previously regulated by the federal government. (A.2048; Passed Assembly/ S.2081; in the Senate Rules Committee)
Environmental Protection Fund Enhancement This bill would increase the deposits from the Real Estate Transfer Tax to the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) to bring total annual EPF funding to $300 million. (A.9283-A; Passed Assembly/ S.6356-A; in the Senate Finance Committee)
Great Lakes Compact This legislation would ratify New York’s participation in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact, a multi-state agreement on the management of the Great Lakes that creates a system for cooperatively managing water withdrawals and use of water from the Basin. (A.11968; Passed Assembly/ S.8187; in Senate Rules Committee)
Open Burning This bill would prohibit the open burning of household waste, which has been shown to release toxic pollutants into the air. (A.3073; Passed Assembly)
Bottle Bill Expansion The bill would expand the bottle bill to include all beverage containers with the exception of those containing liquor, wine, infant formula and milk. In addition, the measure requires the return of unclaimed deposits on beverage containers to the state, which would be deposited in the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). (A.2517-D; Passed Assembly /S.1290-D; in Senate Environmental Conservation Committee)
Urban Pesticide Use This bill would establish an Urban Pesticide Board to investigate the sale and use of industrial strength pesticides in urban areas. The board would also make recommendations regarding the enforcement of existing restrictions and educate the public about the hazards of using pesticides in the home. (A.6448-A; Passed Assembly/ S.635A; Senate Environmental Conservation Committee)
Private Well Testing Act This bill would mandate the testing of drinking water from private wells when a property is sold or transferred – reducing the risk that new property owners will unknowingly drink contaminated drinking water. (A.6459-A; Passed Assembly, no Senate sponsor)
Light Pollution This bill would provide for the management of outdoor night lighting to protect the nighttime environment, enhance safety and security and conserve energy. (A.7404; Passed Assembly/S.4474; Senate Rules Committee)
Mercury Switches in Vehicles This bill would require motor vehicle manufacturers to develop plans to collect mercury switches from end-of-life motor vehicles to prevent the release of mercury into the water and soil due to improper disposal. (A.3336-B; Passed Assembly/ S.4256B; Senate Environmental Conservation Committee)
Natural Resource Protection The bill would strengthen the regulation of adopt-a-natural resource stewardship agreements to avoid destruction of natural resources. (A.556 Passed Assembly/ S.525; Senate Environmental Conservation Committee)
State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) The bill would allow individuals to challenge SEQRA determinations without regard to whether the project affects an individual or the public at large. (A.114; Passed Assembly/S.2380; Senate Environmental Conservation Committee)
Local Recycling This bill clarifies the obligations of waste haulers regarding the handling of recyclable materials and specifies the materials which are to be separated for recycling. (A.4793; Passed Assembly)
Smart Growth The bill would establish the state Smart Growth Public Infrastructure Policy Act to ensure that the use of state funds for infrastructure projects is consistent with “smart growth principles.” The legislation aims to ensure that the development of land is done in a way that uses existing infrastructure and is compatible with the development plans of local governments and also makes economic and environmental sense. (A.3574; Passed Assembly / S.2070; Senate Environmental Conservation Committee)
Dam Safety Measures To ensure the safety of the communities that host the more than 5,000 dams in New York State and to protect residents from the loss of life and widespread property damage the Assembly approved bills that would:
Environmental Justice The Assembly passed a package of environmental justice bills which would:
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