The upcoming years must bring significant actions to advance and ensure environment protection. New Yorkers grapple with the impacts of a changing climate, massive amounts of dangerous crude oil on our rails and along and on the Hudson River, proposals for new gas and oil pipelines, toxic chemicals in products for children, and aging and deteriorating drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. The impacts of all these issues and others damage our environment, contribute to human illness, and degrade communities and our quality of life.
Looking forward, Environmental Advocates will build off of past successes to: defend and strengthen policies and programs that improve our health and the environment; fight for new standards that improve public health; advocate for new measures that protect our children; ensure that the State’s environment and energy agencies have the resources and public support to effectively regulate and enforce the law; and work to make sure our priorities are at the fore of New York’s political debate.
Our priorities are focused on this core principle: every action New York leaders take must move us toward a cleaner and healthier future. In addition to large-scale efforts to protect our climate and more, Environmental Advocates will advance national, state, and local opportunities to produce laws that:
- Require toxic-free children’s products
- Ban all products that contain plastic microbeads
- Divert recyclable and reusable materials from the waste stream and eliminate unnecessary waste (e.g. plastic foam and bags)
- Provide funds (at least $800 million annually) to communities struggling to improve aging drinking water and sewage systems
New York must be a model for building a cleaner, brighter tomorrow. New York must lead in the development and deployment of clean energy technologies that create jobs and build economic strength. It must help communities and businesses cut energy waste by being more energy efficient. And New York must help make communities healthier by stepping away from a dirty fossil fuel past.
In fact, New York State has adopted climate and clean energy goals that would end the combustion of fossil fuels in New York by 2050.
As the state moves to achieve these goals, it must create good, New York-based jobs in the developing renewable energy sector, and ensure that environmental justice areas and frontline communities will be the first to benefit. As we continue to learn from extreme weather events like Superstorm Sandy and grapple with the increasing impacts of climate change, New York can show the nation what is possible.
The 2014 Community Risk Reduction and Resiliency Act, which requires community planning and infrastructure efforts to be done with a clear eye towards the impacts of climate change, must be implemented. And, given that the scientific community has concluded that the future of the planet ranges between one that is heavily impacted by climate change to one that is uninhabitable, we must act swiftly to reduce climate-disrupting pollutants and prepare for inevitable impacts. Our plan of action includes:
- Ensuring that New York leads state efforts to implement the federal power plant carbon dioxide pollution reductions (US EPA standards) and expands that effort to address other economic sectors. Now is the time to update the state climate pollution mitigation efforts to lower carbon dioxide pollution from the building, industrial and transportation sectors.
- Preserving the auction revenues from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) so that those funds are used for their intended purpose.
- Pressuring the State to enact the Climate Protection Act: a new law that would set legally binding clean energy and climate goals from the 2015 State Energy Plan, and require all state agencies and local governments to screen every decision against a climate, social justice, and workforce development “test.”
- Developing new and expanding existing incentives and opportunities for investment in renewable energy (offshore wind, community renewables, Renewable Portfolio Standard revisions, and other regulatory opportunities), energy efficiency, and weatherization of homes and businesses that will protect public health, invest in local economics, and create jobs.
Keeping Fracking Pollution out of the State
After determining the public health risks far exceeded any benefits, horizontal drilling and high volume fracking for natural gas have been banned in New York. Nonetheless, hundreds of thousands of tons of liquid and solid wastes from out-of-state fracking operations are ending up in New York landfills. New York won’t be fracking, but the dangers remain, and consequences from neighbor states that rushed to drill are being felt.
We’re advocating for legislation or regulations to close the hazardous waste loophole that currently allows fracking waste to be dumped in New York landfills.
Fighting Environmental Rollbacks
Special interests and their allies at the Capitol work each year to weaken, block, or delay environmental protections. Environmental Advocates identifies these assaults, sounds the alarm with the public and decision-makers, and works overtime to ensure bad proposals are dead on arrival. In 2016 we may be called into action on several fronts, including attempts to roll back environmental regulations, a reprise of last year’s attempt to thwart Governor Cuomo’s clean energy agenda, raids on off-budget clean energy funds (e.g., RGGI auction proceeds), and another year of delay of the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act.
Investing in Our Environment and Health
New York’s budget can help or harm our environment and people’s health. We analyze and advocate for green budget items while fighting against efforts that undermine our protections. We’re working to support green capital investments, like the Environmental Protection Fund, to ensure that the Department of Environmental Conservation has the resources needed to enforce the state’s laws, and to assist communities that are challenged by a multitude of fossil fuel infrastructure projects proposed by dirty energy interests.
Further, with budget cuts meaning fewer “environmental cops on the beat,” New York should once and for all make it legal for citizens to seek judicial relief from environmental threats and health hazards.