Assemblymember Cahill: Assembly Passes Earth Day Legislation to Make New York a Cleaner, Healthier Place to Live
Assemblymember Kevin Cahill (D-Ulster, Dutchess) and the State Assembly celebrated Earth Day 2004 by passing a package of bills to protect New York’s air, soil and water, further the state’s investment in alternative energy, reduce pollution and encourage smart growth in cities.
"This comprehensive package of legislation builds on the Assembly’s longstanding commitment to New York’s environment," Mr. Cahill said. "With our new Earth Day package, we’re once again taking the lead on protecting our environment and preserving it for future generations."
Cleaning the air
The Assembly’s Earth Day package contains several measures to reduce air pollution by:
- setting lower limits on the sulfur content of diesel fuel and home heating oil (A.3923-A);
- banning open, outdoor incineration of most household wastes in so-called "burn barrels" (A.5884); and
- establishing lower limits on carbon emissions by electric producers (A.10049).
"By reducing airborne irritants like sulfur and exhaust, we’re fighting public health risks such as asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia," the Assemblymember said. "Many New York counties fail to meet new EPA standards of air purity and asthma is on the rise in our cities. These bills will help clean up the air and improve public health."
Instituting environmentally-sound energy policies
On January 26, 2004, the Assembly passed legislation (A.6248-B) reauthorizing Article X, the State power plant siting law. It implements several components to the siting process that would provide additional protection for public health and the environment.
To further capitalize on both the environmental and economic benefits of alternative energy, the Earth Day bills make strides toward increasing New York’s alternate energy resources while limiting pollution.
One bill (A.1538-A) would require alternative fuels to be available every 120 miles along the Thruway after November 1, 2005.
"The Thruway is a major component of the state and national transportation system," Assemblymember Cahill noted. "Clearly, we can take the lead in bringing cleaner sustainable fuel technologies to America’s roadways."
Another bill would provide for energy efficient outdoor lighting standards to minimize light pollution, protect privacy and conserve energy (A.6950-D).
Improving handling of solid and hazardous wastes
To further protect our air, water and soil from contamination by hazardous materials, the Assembly also passed bills to:
- establish standards for the recycling of electronics and the handling of the hazardous materials they sometimes contain (A.3073);
- require that products containing mercury be labeled with information on proper disposal (A.10051-A);
- prevent recyclables from ending up in landfills (A.8462); and
- protect residents from the health and safety risks associated with automobile dismantlers and scrap metal processing facilities by making it mandatory for these facilities to obtain a permit from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (A.8835-B).
"Many products we use every day contain materials such as lead and mercury which can cause physical harm especially to children and we must ensure they are properly and safely disposed of," stated Mr. Cahill. "We also can ease some of the burden on state landfills by reducing the extent to which they’re filled with recyclable items."
Limiting pesticides and preserving clean water
Preserving the quality of New York’s water and protecting New Yorkers from harmful pesticides has long been a priority for the Assembly. This year’s Earth Day legislation continues that work by:
- phasing out state use of pesticides in favor of predominantly non-chemical pest control systems (A.5969-A);
- establishing a board to investigate and control the sale and use of pesticides in urban areas (A.1110-C); and
- expanding the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s jurisdiction over wetlands (A.7905-A).
"Pesticide use is hazardous, excessive method of pest control that is harmful to everyone – particularly young children," the Assemblymember said. "Phasing out the use of pesticides and initiating safer alternatives will help eliminate public exposure to this environmentally damaging health hazard."
The Assembly’s Earth Day legislation also contains bills granting more local control over mining and solid waste facilities (A.24 and A.25); allowing individuals to challenge State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) determinations (A.8673); and requiring state spending on new roadways, utilities and other infrastructure to be consistent with smart growth principles (A.8651-A).
A longtime advocate for a more environmentally sustainable economic development plan that also respects the quality of life residents of the Hudson Valley enjoy, Assemblymember Cahill introduced Assembly Bill A.8315, which would extend the time allotted for local governments to provide comment on a mining permit application from thirty to ninety days. The bill passed by an overwhelming majority in the Assembly on April 14, 2004. Enactment of this measure would allow municipalities additional time to review the project and hear local concerns regarding a mining proposal.
"Our land, air and water are precious natural resources. Earth Day reminds us that we all have an important role to play in preserving our environment," Assemblymember Cahill concluded. "The Assembly’s legislation will help ensure that New York’s families are protected from pollution and other health hazards, while we take steps to encourage energy conservation and renewable energy sources."