NYS leading on environment as legislative session ends

With the 2019 New York Legislative session now over, Save the Sound would like to share some of the many successes we think are worth celebrating—some of which you helped get over the finish line!

Climate Leadership and Community Protection

The New York State Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act establishes aggressive, legally binding targets to move New York’s economy off fossil fuels by 2050, thereby significantly reducing climate pollution that harms our public health, environment, and economy.

Continuing climate progress, two other bills make it easier for homeowners to go solar. One doubles the tax credit, and the other prohibits homeowners’ associations from restricting solar installation.

Fewer Plastic Bags for a Happier Sound

On Earth Day, Governor Cuomo signed a statewide ban on plastic bags at retail stores. The bill also allows counties to decide whether to impose a five-cent fee on paper bags. It’s great news for our region’s birds, fish, and turtles!

Preventing Overfishing of Menhaden

Menhaden (aka bunker, part of the herring family) are forage fish that serve as a link between the plankton they eat and the important predatory species that eat them, like dolphins, whales, bluefish, and striped bass. This legislation prohibits the use of purse seines—large nets that can capture entire schools of fish at a time, and can lead to the depletion of fish populations—when fishing for menhaden in New York’s marine district.

Protecting Seals and Sea Turtles

The Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Protection Area legislation establishes a protection area in NYS waters around Plum, Great Gull, and Little Gull Islands to recognize its importance for sea turtles, whales, porpoises, and seals. The bill directs the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to bring together experts to consider the ecological relationship among the islands and their waters—and how to protect that area’s diverse marine resources, as well as traditional fishing activities.

Prohibition on Off-Shore Drilling

Offshore drilling for oil and natural gas is inherently dangerous. It produces lead, mercury, and carcinogens like benzene. Oil spills can devastate wildlife, public health, and local economies reliant on tourism and fishing. This legislation will prevent the fossil fuel industry from drilling near New York’s shoreline, preserving opportunities to pursue a clean energy future through responsibly-sited off-shore wind.

New Water Conservation Standards

Wasting clean water puts pressure on our wastewater treatment systems, exacerbating sewage discharges into our lakes and rivers, especially during heavy rains. This bill ensures that plumbing fixtures sold or installed in the state reduce the amount of waterused by aligning NYS’s water efficiency standards with the voluntary guidelines set by the EPA’s WaterSense Program.

The NYS and federal legislative processes work a little differently…but every new bill starts out as a good idea with a long road ahead of it!

Bans on Toxic Substances

By banning the use, manufacture, sale, and distribution of firefighting foam containing perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (aka PFAS chemicals), New York has eliminated a major source of drinking water contamination. Recent studies have shown health effects including cancer, hormone disruption, liver and kidney damage, developmental and reproductive harm, and immune system toxicity.

A separate bill prohibits distribution and sale of household cleaning products and cosmetics containing 1,4 dioxane, another toxic water pollutant. Exposure to high levels can cause chronic kidney and liver effects as well as liver cancer, and the EPA has classified it as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”

Identifying Environmental Justice Zones

This bill requires DEC to biennially document areas and communities with environmental hazards, such as impaired water bodies, toxic sites, and chemical discharges. Summarizing existing pollution loads and identifying the highest environmental impact zones will bring more attention to inequity in the siting of environmentally harmful facilities and help guide future development in a more just and equitable manner.

Environmental Rights in NYS Constitution

The “Green Amendment” adds 15 clear, simple words to the Bill of Rights in the New York State Constitution: “Each person shall have a right to clean air and water, and a healthful environment.” We couldn’t agree more!

 

Thanks go out to the tireless efforts of all of our state representatives, and to our members and supporters like you who took action to make cleaner water and a healthier environment happen for all New Yorkers!

Tracy Brown

Director, Save the Sound


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