April 30, 2019

Assembly to Pass Legislation to Safeguard the Environment and Public Health in Honor of Earth Day

Speaker Carl Heastie and Environmental Conservation Chair Steve Englebright today announced that the Assembly will pass a package of legislation to commemorate Earth Day by promoting environmental conservation and protecting public health.

"The legislation we pass today is a critical step in safeguarding our environment, economy and the health of all New Yorkers," Speaker Heastie said. "While Washington continues to roll back protections for the environment and public health, the Assembly Majority will continue fighting to preserve our environment for generations of New Yorkers to come."

"Our Earth Day agenda will provide the public with the opportunity to pass a constitutional amendment safeguarding clean air and water, and a healthful environment. Other bills will keep dangerous pollutants and chemicals away from children and out of our environment," Assemblymember Englebright said. "I am proud that today's legislation will protect our health, reduce the waste of clean water and help to shield vulnerable species such as giraffes from extinction."

The Assembly Majority is committed to protecting New York's drinking water and its many waterways. Today's legislative package includes an amendment to the New York State Constitution which would ensure clean water and air are treated as fundamental rights for New Yorkers, protecting both the environment and public health (A.2064, Englebright). Another bill would raise water-efficiency standards for plumbing fixtures (A.2286, Hunter)

"Water is one of our most precious resources. It is integral not just to our health and well-being, but to our state's economy from tourism to agriculture," Assemblymember Pamela J. Hunter said. "By improving our water-efficiency, this bill will help New York maintain our plentiful supply of fresh water, as well as our economic edge and way of life."

Included in the legislative package is a bill that would require the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to publish a list every two years of geographic areas in the state that are adversely affected by existing environmental hazards (A.1779, Peoples-Stokes). Historically, communities with existing environmental hazards have frequently been selected for the placement of new projects, presumably due to the belief that the "incremental" adverse environmental impact would be less in such an area than in an area with fewer existing environmental problems. This process can compound environmental hazards for a small geographical area, often disproportionately affecting low-income communities and people of color. The bill recognizes the importance of considering such cumulative impacts.

"New York is committed to protecting all of our communities from negative environmental impacts," Assembly Majority Leader Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes said. "My legislation will ensure that communities already stressed by environmental hazards - often poor communities and communities of color - are recognized by the state, in an effort to fix and avoid continued adverse environmental burdens."

Also to pass today is legislation banning the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos. There has been extensive scientific research into chlorpyrifos, which is toxic to the human brain and nervous system, and is especially dangerous for children, infants and women who are pregnant (A.2477-B, Englebright).

Included in the legislative package are bills that will reduce the amount of toxins in products. One bill will regulate toxic chemicals in children's products, requiring notification to consumers about children's products containing chemicals of concern and dangerous chemicals, as well as banning children's products containing dangerous chemicals like organohalogen flame retardants, tris and asbestos (A.6296-A, Englebright). Another bill would reduce the amount of mercury in light bulbs (A.2501-A, Englebright).

Despite the devastating loss of close to 40 percent of the giraffe population, giraffes are not protected by any federal or state laws. Legislation to pass today would change that, giving the DEC commissioner the ability to protect species by designating animals, like the giraffe, as vulnerable species and banning the sale of items made in part or in whole from the such species (A.6600, Englebright).

The legislative package also includes two resolutions. The first commemorates April 22, 2019 as the 49th anniversary of Earth Day (K.326, Griffin). Earth Day is celebrated by more than 500 million people and recognized by the governments of 175 countries around the world. The second resolution recognizes June 8, 2019 as Dragonfly Day in New York State (K.318, Thiele). Dragonflies are a sentinel species, and their presence or absence is indicative of the health of wetlands. Healthy wetlands provide ecosystem services, habitat and sources of food for marine and terrestrial animals, and resiliency to our coastal areas.