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9 clean water priorities for New York’s legislature 

New York State goes big on clean water

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9 clean water priorities for New York’s legislatureAmid the COVID-19 pandemic the New York legislature passed resolutions approving remote voting to allow lawmakers to work amid this crisis. These remote procedures were used to pass the New York State budget last week with most legislators casting their votes remotely. The budget held some big wins for the environment including a $3 billion environmental bond act, $500 million for clean water infrastructure, $300 million for the environmental protection fund, a statewide ban on polystyrene, and a permanent fracking ban. 

Now with the budget wrapped up the New York Legislature is pledging to reconvene, although according to reports, the timeline remains uncertain. With the budget completed, lawmakers will return to session to continue to address the complex policy issues facing New York due to the COVID-19 crisis. Besides these policy issues we are hopeful the legislature will continue to address key environmental protection bills. 

With the help of our members and supporters, Riverkeeper continues advocating for our top priorities for the remainder of the legislative session or for the 2021 legislative session. 

  • Expanding Stream Protections
      • Riverkeeper supports the passage of the Class C Stream Protection Bill A.8449/S.5612A sponsored by Assemblyman Sean Ryan and Senator Pete Harckham that will protect thousands of miles of small but important streams, creeks and rivers across the state. Class C is a New York classification that includes many of the stream types targeted in the administration’s Clean Water Act rollbacks. Class C streams do not require a state permit to alter the stream bank or disturb the stream bottom, which impacts the health of the stream and wildlife dependent on clean water. The bill passed through the Assembly on 2/13/2020 and is awaiting passage in the Senate.
  • Protecting small wetlands
      • The Governor’s proposal to reform state wetlands policy which would have removed the requirement that wetlands appear on a DEC published map to receive protections fell out of the budget amid negotiations. Although the budget proposal did not proceed, Riverkeeper still supports the passage of the Wetlands Protection Act A.3658/S.7366 sponsored by Assemblyman Steve Englebright and Senator Pete Harckman which would allow for protection of smaller wetlands 1 acre or larger.  
  • New York State Decommissioning Oversight Board
      • Riverkeeper supports the passage of S.8158/A.10236 to create an oversight board to protect the financial interests of New York State and ratepayers during the decommissioning process of nuclear energy facilities such as Indian Point. The oversight board will comprise appointees from various state agencies, the legislature, and union and community members with expertise in the operations of a nuclear energy facility. While we continue to fight the application of the license transfer of Indian Point to Holtec — a company with a dubious past and little experience in decommissioning nuclear power plants —  this legislation will help ensure effective oversight of the decommissioning process regardless of the company in charge.
  • Citizen Suits for Environmental Conservation Laws
      • Riverkeeper supports the passage of S.5013/A.1424 sponsored by Senator Parker and Assemblywoman Simon. This bill would create a private right of action for NY citizens and organizations such as Riverkeeper to enforce state environmental laws in the courts, a right granted in many other states such as Massachusetts and Florida. 
  • Birds and Bees Protection Act
      • Riverkeeper supports the passage of the Birds and Bees Protection Act S.5816/A.7639 sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblyman Steve Englebright. This bill would place a 5-year moratorium on outdoor uses of neonicotinoid pesticides in New York. Known as neonics, this class of chemicals has strong scientific evidence pointing to its role in honey bee colony collapse disorder. More recent evidence concludes ecosystem-wide harm including to aquatic life by killing the insects fish, birds and others depend on in the food chain. The European Union banned neonics in 2018 and Ontario regulates the sale and use of neonicotinoid-treated seeds and is moving towards a full ban.
  • Ban on Coal Tar Pavement Sealants
      • Riverkeeper supports the passage of A.1304/S.6308 sponsored by Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal and Senator Jen Metzger which would prohibit the usage of coal tar in pavement sealants. Coal tar sealants are the primary cause of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) pollution in urban areas which have been linked to human health and aquatic harm. Specifically PAHs are known to cause cancer and developmental problems in children. USGS has compiled extensive data on the environmental and public health effects of coal tar in pavement products. Multiple states and local municipalities have already banned this toxic chemical including Austin, TX, Washington D.C., Minnesota, and Suffolk county here in New York. In 2016, New York placed a procurement ban on coal tar and asphalt sealants containing high levels of PAHs.
  • Closing the Fracked Oil & Gas Waste Loophole
      • Riverkeeper supports S.3392/A.2655 sponsored by Senator Rachel May and Assemblyman Steve Englebright. The oil and gas industry exploits a loophole  in New York State hazardous waste requirements. Since 2010, more than 608,000 tons of solid waste and 23,000 barrels of liquid waste have been shipped from Pennsylvania to New York landfills and wastewater treatment facilities for disposal — all of it exempt from hazardous waste regulations. Take action by contacting your state representatives today.
  • Plastic Straws by Request
      • Riverkeeper supports the passage of S.1477/A.90 sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal. The bill would ensure straws are only offered to consumers upon specific request and support the increased adoption of straws made from biodegradable materials. 

To see a full list of Riverkeeper priorities and the current status of each of these bills visit our policy solutions page which is updated regularly.

Interested in learning more about how Riverkeeper’s priority bills have fared in the legislative session so far? Join Jeremy Cherson, Riverkeeper’s Legislative Advocacy Manager and Renee Seacor, Legislative Advocacy Intern for our legislative briefing webinar tonight Tuesday, April 14 at 6pm. Register here  

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