Blogs > Riverkeeper victories in 2023 State Legislative Session – and what’s left to tackle

Riverkeeper victories in 2023 State Legislative Session – and what’s left to tackle


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During the 2023 Legislative Session in Albany, Riverkeeper achieved significant environmental and clean water victories. Riverkeeper has dedicated staff to advocate for clean water policy in Albany and ensure that your voice is heard by state decision makers. Many of our legislative priorities highlighted in our first ever New York State Legislative Agenda cleared the Legislature or made progress this past session. That said, there is still much left to accomplish – including ensuring that Governor Hochul signs key legislation heading to her desk.

With thanks to our members and supporters, here is a wrap-up of our wins, what’s still in the works, and how you can take action.


  • Indian Point ‘Save the Hudson’ legislation passed unanimously in the Senate and with bipartisan support in the Assembly. With tritiated water discharges coming as soon as August or September it is essential that Governor Hochul act to prevent radiological waste discharges into the Hudson River. Riverkeeper worked closely with Senate Environmental Conservation Chairman Pete Harckham and Assemblymember Dana Levenberg for months to ensure this legislation passed both houses. Our members’ voices were critical in ensuring the legislation had the necessary support to pass.
  • Class C stream protections head to Governor Hochul’s desk. This legislation is critical to shore up the state’s protections for streams, particularly after the Supreme Court’s recent opinion in Sackett v. EPA imperiling Clean Water Act protections for the nation’s wetlands and waterways. Senate and Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee Chairs Pete Harckham and Deborah Glick sponsored and championed this legislation.
  • The Living Shorelines Act updates New York’s permits for tidal shorelines to make nature-based features such as native plants and oyster beds the preferred alternative. The Senate passed Senator Shelley Mayer’s legislation unanimously during the regular session and in a surprise near-unanimous vote during the Assembly special session, thanks to sponsor Assemblyman Steve Otis.
  • The Birds and Bees Protection Act passed both houses, after five years of advocacy to ban a nicotine-based pesticide that has been linked to the collapse of pollinators, water pollution, and negative health outcomes in farmworker communities as well as the wider public. Riverkeeper was instrumental in ensuring Hudson Valley representatives voted in favor of this legislation, despite strong opposition from the agricultural and chemical industries.
  • Pipeline Insurance Community Right to Know heads to Hochul’s desk. Fossil fuel pipelines are prone to leaks and disasters that can wreak havoc on communities and wildlife. Riverkeeper Leadership Council Member and Climate Activist, actor Tim Guinee, worked with Riverkeeper and a coalition to pass legislation requiring gas pipeline projects to disclose the name of their insurer and the amount of liability included in their insurance.

Riverkeeper delivered testimony to the state Legislature in February on the clean water needs in the state budget. Many of our priorities were funded.The budget enacted earlier in the legislation session includes several wins for clean water:

  • $500 million for Clean Water Infrastructure Act
  • $400 million for the Environmental Protection Fund including continued funding at $7.5 million for the DEC’s Hudson River Estuary Program
  • 230+ new staff positions at the Department of Environmental Conservation to implement the historic $4.2 billion Environmental Bond Act and the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

More work to do

Several priorities advanced this legislative session but fell short of passing both the Senate and Assembly. Riverkeeper will continue to advocate for these priorities ahead of the next legislative session, which begins January 2024. We will work closely with our allies over the coming months to build greater support for these priorities and ensure they have the votes to pass both chambers next legislative session, and our supporters are key to that future success.

  • Bigger Better Bottle Bill, which would increase the types of bottles accepted for redemption and increase the redemption deposit to 10 cents, stalled in the Assembly and Senate. Plastic bottles are an item that Riverkeeper finds in enormous quantities at the annual Riverkeeper Sweep.
  • Water Bill Fairness Act is an important bill to ensure local water boards have the authority to restructure water and sewer rates to pay for climate resilience projects. Riverkeeper is disappointed that the Assembly and Senate Corporations and Public Authorities Committee failed to move this legislation forward and therefore this legislation did not pass either house legislature.
  • Senate passed Enhanced Public Participation for Environmental Justice Communities; the Assembly did not move the bill forward.
  • Senate passed PFAS Discharge Disclosure Act which would require testing for PFAS/PFOA “forever chemicals” from Clean Water Act discharge permit holders. PFAS/PFOA are part of a family of long-lived and toxic man-made chemicals that are widely used in industrial and commercial products such as firefighting foam, kitchenware, clothing, and other products. These chemicals have been found across the Hudson Valley in communities in Rockland County and Newburgh. This new legislation would be an important step forward to help regulators pinpoint various sources of PFAS pollution from facilities such as landfills and manufacturers. This legislation did not pass the Assembly.
  • Senate passed Open Water Data Act, which would create a centralized clearinghouse for all water-related data in New York State, helping make academic and government datasets more accessible to the public. This legislation did not pass the Assembly.
  • Similar to the successful CHIPS program for highways and roads, Safe Water Infrastructure Act (SWAP) aims to provide critical funding for repairing and upgrading wastewater and drinking water infrastructure. As of 2022, the Hudson River Watershed, excluding New York City, requires substantial investments, with documented needs amounting to $941 million—a 60 percent increase since 2017. Riverkeeper stood with Hudson Valley State Senator Michelle Hinchey at a press conference to highlight the importance of this legislation.

Riverkeeper is fighting to ensure laws heading to Governor Hochul’s desk receive her signature. During the “off-session” months, Riverkeeper’s Government Affairs team meets regularly with state lawmakers and our allies to ensure legislation that did not advance receives the necessary support for success in the 2024 legislative session. Stay tuned for updates.

All year long, you can support Riverkeeper’s efforts to restore the Hudson River and its connected waters by becoming a member and adding your voice in support. To stay up to date, please join our mailing list.

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