Assemblymember Cahill: Assembly’s Earth Day Legislation Ensures a Healthier, Cleaner New York

April 25, 2005

Assemblymember Kevin Cahill (D-Ulster, Dutchess) and the state Assembly celebrated Earth Day 2005 by passing a package of bills to protect New York’s air, soil and water.

"New York’s environment is an important priority in the Assembly and this new Earth Day legislation shows our steadfast commitment to its protection and preservation," Assemblymember Cahill said. "We need to take steps to ensure a clean and healthy environment for today and for future generations."

Cleaning the air

The Assembly’s Earth Day package contains several measures aimed at reducing air pollution by:

  • prohibiting the open burning of solid waste (A.3073);
  • cutting major electric generating facilities’ carbon dioxide emissions to prevent global warming (A.4459);
  • establishing a mercury emission reduction program to decrease current mercury emissions from power plants and incinerators (A.6484); and
  • addressing public health issues when a facility repeatedly exceeds air emission limits (A.5328).

"The pollution from fossil fuel emissions is poisoning the air we breathe, the fish we eat, and the water we drink," Assemblymember Cahill said. "By reducing airborne irritants, we’re fighting public health risks such as asthma, bronchitis, and the serious impairment of the human nervous system."

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:

  • create a recycling program to ensure the proper disposal of electronic waste (A.1454);
  • clarify the obligations of waste management workers when handling recyclable materials, specify what materials should be separated for recycling and prohibit recyclable materials from being delivered to landfills or incinerators (A.4793); and
  • restrict the sale of products containing mercury, such as thermostats, when non-mercury substitutes are available (A.6850).

"As technology advances, more and more electronic equipment made with metals like lead, cadmium and mercury are making their way into our homes and businesses," Assemblymember Cahill said. "These metals pose a serious threat to public health, especially to the health of our children. It is our responsibility to help reduce the use of these materials, and make sure they’re disposed of properly."

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:

  • reducing pesticide use by New York State agencies, and fostering non-chemical pest control strategies (A.1802-A);
  • expanding the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s jurisdiction to include wetlands that are one acre or more in size (A.2048);
  • investigating the sale and use of industrial strength pesticides in urban areas by establishing a State Urban Pesticide Board to make recommendations to the Governor and Legislature in order to prevent pesticide poisoning (A.6448); and
  • making it easier for agriculture projects, residential properties and small businesses to obtain loans for pollution control programs (A.6985).

"Pesticides may contaminate ground and surface water – killing wildlife and causing reproductive or developmental defects in humans," Mr. Cahill noted. "Phasing out the use of pesticides and initiating safer alternatives will help eliminate exposure to these health hazards."

Preserving open space

Land preservation is essential for a healthy environment. Important preservation legislation in the Assembly’s Earth Day package includes bills that:

  • promote state spending on infrastructure in accordance with smart growth principles (A.3574); and
  • establish a procedure to determine whether state-owned lands proposed for sale should be protected by the state for their natural resources (A.7083).

"Sadly, too many communities have seen valuable open space vanish because of unchecked development," stated Assemblymember Cahill. "These measures will safeguard our limited natural resources, and protect land that is unique to New York State."

Environmental regulatory fairness and disclosure

A constant re-evaluation of environmental laws and regulations to make them more effective is important to the Assembly. The following legislation would ensure more protection from environmental hazards by:

  • requiring the identification of areas in the state that have been adversely affected by existing environmental hazards (A.5982); and
  • allowing individuals to challenge State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) determinations (A.114).

"We all share the responsibility to preserve our environment, which Earth Day reminds us of each year," Assemblymember Cahill said. "But, it is in the acts we do every day that will ultimately make a difference. The Assembly’s legislation will help foster the preventative measures needed to protect New York families from pollution and other health hazards that threaten the land we stand on, the air we breathe and the water we drink," he concluded.