Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. (I, D, WF-Sag Harbor) announced the Assembly passed several measures to help clean up the environment and protect the health of East End families in recognition of Earth Day. The legislative package addresses several major environmental issues, including climate change, childhood chemical exposure, pollution control, recycling and clean drinking water.
“Earth Day is an opportunity for us to focus on the health of New Yorkers and our environment and to pass legislation that makes a difference not just today but for future generations,” Assemblyman Thiele said. “This package of bills exemplifies the Assembly’s commitment to putting New York at the head of the pack when it comes to environmental issues.”
Tackling climate change
The Assembly Earth Day package includes a measure that would require the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to establish limits on greenhouse-gas emissions and create a greenhouse-gas reporting system (A.6327).
“Climate change threatens not only our environment but the health and well-being of New Yorkers, as we’ve seen in the rash of ‘once in a lifetime’ storms that now occur every couple of years,” Thiele said. “Climate scientists agree that we need to rapidly reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to prevent the worst impacts of global warming. This legislation would help accomplish that goal and ensure public input into the regulatory process so there are no unintended environmental or economic hardships.”
Creating a greener state government and protecting New Yorkers from harmful chemicals
The Assembly also passed the New York State Healthy and Green Procurement Act, a measure that would establish a preference for the purchase of commodities, services and technologies by the state that minimize adverse impacts on public health and the environment (A.6046). Greener, less toxic day-to-day products, such as cleaning agents and paper products, and technologies like lighting and sustainable building practices, would become preferred items for purchase.
In addition, legislation was passed that would specify which materials are required to be separated for recycling by waste haulers and prohibit the dumping of those materials in landfills or incinerators (A.3754). Additionally, the package includes a bill that would create a drug disposal program to encourage the proper disposal of unwanted prescription medications (A.5465).
“Prescription drugs have no place in our drinking water,” Assemblyman Thiele said. “Furthermore, medications that are carelessly disposed of can wreak havoc on our already-fragile ecosystem. By helping to ensure the proper disposal of chemicals and prescription drugs, we can achieve a healthier, cleaner environment.”
Also included in this year’s Earth Day package are two bills that help protect New York families from harmful chemicals. The first piece of legislation would prohibit the use of chemical flame retardants in residential upholstered furniture (A.6557). The second measure would prevent exposure to dangerous chemicals and ensure the use of safer chemical alternatives in children’s products (A.6328).
“Anyone who has been around young children knows they are constantly putting things in their mouths,” Thiele said. “As a result, kids are being exposed to flame retardants and other chemicals at a much higher rate than adults. Implementing comprehensive chemical guidelines for manufacturers will go a long way in protecting children from toxins.”
In addition, legislation was passed that discourages the use of disposable, difficult-to-recycle polystyrene foam (commonly known as Styrofoam) food service containers and studies the feasibility of a polystyrene foam ban in New York State (A.4973-A).
Ensuring private wells are clean for drinking
In an effort to ensure clean drinking water, the Assembly passed the Private Well Testing Act. The legislation would require the testing of drinking water from private wells upon transfer of property, helping ensure that potential purchasers are aware of contaminants that may be present (A.1040).
“Approximately 1 million New Yorkers depend on private wells for water and some may be unknowingly drinking contaminated water,” Assemblyman Thiele said. “This bill will help homebuyers determine if their water is safe for consumption when they buy a new property and give them the opportunity to install treatment measures if necessary.”
Reducing environmental impact and fighting for environmental justice
Several bills in the Assembly’s Earth Day package specifically work to better protect areas of the state that are most adversely affected by current environmental hazards, and ensure that environmental factors are considered when making state funding decisions.
One measure requires the DEC to publish a list of “high local environmental impact zones” (A.3729). Areas with existing environmental hazards are frequently chosen for new development projects, which leads to a higher concentration of environmental hazards within that area and a higher risk of endangering the health of its residents, Thiele noted.
“The health of those who live or work in areas of high pollution can be jeopardized by the contaminants in their environment,” Assemblyman Thiele said. “These bills will help increase the safety of our community and give East End families something you can’t put a price tag on: peace of mind.”
Another piece of legislation passed by the Assembly would establish a Permanent Environmental Justice Advisory Group within the DEC and an Environmental Justice Interagency Coordinating Council, and would require state agencies to adopt and abide by environmental justice policies (A.3569).
Additionally, this package of legislation would ensure that state funds and permits for projects such as water and sewage treatment plants include consideration of the effects that climate change and extreme weather events – including sea level rise – could have on these facilities (A.6558).