The upcoming year must bring significant action on environmental and public health protections. New York is grappling with the impacts of a changing climate, massive amounts of dangerous crude oil traveling along our railways and on the Hudson River, toxic chemicals in products intended for use by children, aging drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, and thousands of contaminated properties statewide. Inaction on these issues will have real-world consequences for all New Yorkers, negatively impacting public health and our environment by contributing to human illness, as well as degrading our communities and quality of life.
Building on Our Successes
Environmental Advocates moved the dial on key issues in New York in 2014, achieving progress on critical issues and blocking poor policy proposals from advancing. Key victories included:
- Enactment of the Community Risk and Resiliency Act to ensure that a good portion of state funded projects are run through a “climate change screen”
- Stopping the Cuomo Administration’s attempt to raid $511 million from clean water programs for the Tappan Zee replacement bridge construction project
- Preventing a permit that would allow the oil industry to transship tar sands oil from trains to barges and ships on the Hudson River
- Convincing the Cuomo Administration to ban the risky practice of natural gas fracking
- Generating bipartisan support from 50 state legislators for national power plant carbon pollution standards
- Blocking the fracking industry from overturning local bans
- Upholding key public health and environmental standards that special interests thought they could arbitrarily repeal
Looking forward, Environmental Advocates will build off of our success to: advance protections and defend policies that improve the health and the environment for all New Yorkers; fight for updates to life saving air and clean water standards; advocate for new measures to protect children from toxic chemicals; and work to ensure environmental priorities are at the fore of New York’s political debate.
Our 2015 priorities are focused on this core principle: every action New York takes now and in ensuing years must move us toward a cleaner and healthier future. In addition to large-scale efforts on climate, Environmental Advocates has identified national, state and local opportunities to educate and activate citizens on issues such as toxic-free children’s products and cleaning up the solid waste stream.
Fighting Environmental Rollbacks
Big polluters and their allies return to the Capitol each year to weaken, block or delay environmental protections. Environmental Advocates spotlights these attempts to undermine the public good, sounds the alarm with the public, media and decision-makers, and works overtime to ensure bad proposals are dead on arrival. In 2015 we may be called into action on several fronts, including attempts to indiscriminately roll back protections in state regulation, a reprise of last year’s attempt by the Governor to eliminate key pesticide use and sales reporting requirements, and yet another year of delay in implementation of the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, among changes to other key programs.
Acting on Climate Change
New York can be the model for building a cleaner, brighter tomorrow by making communities more energy efficient, stepping away from a dirty fossil fuel past, and putting people to work developing clean, renewable, local energy. Indeed, the nation needs New York to be the beacon of what is possible.
A new law was created in 2014, the Community Risk and Resiliency Act, which requires community planning and infrastructure efforts to be done with a clear eye towards the impacts of climate change. It must be aggressively implemented; the scientific community has concluded that the future of our planet ranges between being one that is heavily impacted by climate, to one that is uninhabitable, meaning we must act swiftly to reduce climate-disrupting pollutants. Our plan of action includes:
- New York leading efforts to implement federal power plant carbon pollution reductions (U.S. EPA standards)
- Passage of the Climate Protection Act (a new law that will mandate that state agencies align all activities and decisions towards the goal of reducing climate pollution 80 percent by 2050)
- Developing new incentives and opportunity for new investment in renewable energy (community renewables, Renewable Portfolio Standard revisions, and other regulatory opportunities), energy efficiency and weatherization of homes and businesses
Protecting New York from Fracking
Despite an administrative ban, New Yorkers are not entirely safe from the risks of fracking: hundreds of thousands of tons of liquid and solid waste from out-of-state fracking operations are being dumped in New York landfills. There is a looming threat that these same wastes will be spread on our roadways and processed through our ill-equipped wastewater treatment plants:
- A statutory ban on fracking
- Closure of the hazardous and radioactive waste loopholes that allow other states’ fracking waste to enter New York
Investing in Our Environment and Health
New York’s budget can help or harm our environment and people. 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 necessary resources to enforce the state’s laws; and to reform the Brownfield Tax Credit program so that public dollars will support much needed cleanup rather than subsidizing already-profitable development.
With budget cuts meaning fewer “cops on the environmental beat,” New York should once and for all make it legal for citizens to seek judicial relief from environmental threats and health hazards.