Assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs (D-Flatbush) announced that in recognition of Earth Day, the Assembly passed several pieces of important legislation designed to better protect New York’s environment.
“Protecting and preserving our environment is critical to our health and well-being, as well as for future generations of New Yorkers,” Jacobs said. “Each year the Assembly celebrates Earth Day by putting forth legislation that will help preserve the environment and help us all make smarter choices when it comes to making New York a healthy state to live and work in.”
Addressing the Threat of Global Warming and Greenhouse Gases
“Scientific studies show that global warming is compromising the health of our environment and, left unchecked, will prove a serious threat to public welfare in the future,” said Jacobs. “We must take decisive action today to ensure a healthy and viable tomorrow.”
Many studies suggest that the continual emission of greenhouse gases will increase the Earth’s temperature, leading to rising sea levels and other ecological changes that will dramatically and negatively affect the Earth’s natural resources.
The Assembly’s 2008 Earth Day package includes:
- authorizing the DEC, after a public hearing, to establish rules and regulations by May 1, 2009, requiring annual greenhouse gas emission reporting (A.10303);
- requiring greenhouse gas emissions to be decreased to no greater than 1990 levels and decreased by 2.3 percent per year, beginning in 2015; resulting in a reduction of 80 percent of the current limit by 2050 (A.10303);
- establishing the Climate Change Solutions Program and Fund to direct money from the auction of emissions allowances associated with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative toward increasing energy efficiency, encouraging the development of clean, renewable sources of energy and advancing other air quality goals (A.7365, A.7366); and
- urging Congress to enact legislation to cap greenhouse gas emissions and reduce them by 80 percent by the year 2050 (K.1423).
Limiting Exposure to Hazardous Wastes and Pesticides
To further protect New Yorkers from exposure to dangerous pesticides and other hazardous materials, the Assembly also passed bills to:
- require the DEC to publish a list of areas of the state most adversely impacted by existing environmental hazards so that these areas do not continue to host more projects that pose a threat to local residents living nearby (A.2002);
- investigate pesticide use in urban areas by establishing a State Urban Pesticide Board, which would make recommendations to the governor and Legislature to limit unnecessary human exposure to pesticides (A.5299);
- phase out pesticide use by New York State agencies – reducing toxic threats to humans, wildlife and water (A.1142-A); and
- prohibit the manufacture and distribution in New York State of decabrominated diphenyl ether (decaBDE), a commonly used flame retardant that has been found to cause permanent neurological and developmental damage (A.7977-B).
Reducing Waste and Pollution; Encouraging Recycling
The Assembly’s Earth Day package contains several measures to limit pollution and waste by encouraging recycling. This legislation:
- requires manufacturers of certain electronic equipment (computers, televisions, etc) to develop recycling programs (A.8444-B);
- prohibits waste haulers from delivering recyclable materials to landfills or incinerators, specifying which materials must be separated for recycling and ensuring that these materials are included under local laws (A.3318);
- establishes the New York State Healthy and Green Procurement Act, which would require state agency purchases to meet certain standards for recycled content, waste reduction, energy efficiency and green buildings (A.7483-A);
- requires retail stores over 10,000 square feet (50,000 sq. feet for stores in a mall) to have easily accessible, clearly identified recycling bins and accept clean bags for return/recycling (A.8810-C); and
- requires cities with a population of one million or more to develop a plan for the placement of trash and recycling receptacles in commercial zones and recreational areas (A.1629).
Preserving Natural Resources and Keeping New York’s Water Clean
Preserving the quality of New York’s natural resources and keeping New Yorkers safe from harmful contamination has long been a priority for the Assembly. This year’s Earth Day legislation continues this work by:
- giving the DEC more power to protect New York’s wetlands (A.7133);
- requiring testing of drinking water from private wells upon the transfer of property (A.7231); and
- urging Congress to provide funding for wastewater infrastructure (K.1422).
Responsible Environmental Initiatives and Fair Legal Recourse
A constant re-evaluation of environmental laws and regulations to make them more effective is important to the Assembly. This year, more protection from environmental hazards is ensured by:
- requiring state infrastructure funding to be consistent with smart growth principles, with priority given to funding projects with existing infrastructure that is consistent with local governments’ plans for smart growth development – instead of new, expansive, and expensive infrastructure that harms the environment and is costly to taxpayers (A.7335); and
- expanding individuals’ rights to take legal action in regard to violations of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (A.1435).
Making New York a Leader in Energy Efficiency
Reducing our nation’s dependence on foreign oil and finding alternative means of energy production will not only help our environment, but it will help New York’s economy and save money for New York businesses and taxpayers. To meet this goal, the Assembly passed legislation requiring that all new construction and renovation of state buildings comply with the United States Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver Rating levels by using energy, water and land more efficiently and effectively (A.2005).
“The health of our environment depends on what we do now,” said Jacobs. “We need to take deliberate measures to ensure that our air, water and land are protected. I urge the Senate and Governor Paterson to join the Assembly and pass legislation that will help protect our environment and improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers.”