On Tuesday, February 14th, just one day before it was set to go into effect, Governor Cuomo signed a law to overturn New York City’s Carryout Bag Bill. NYLCV is disappointed in this action, and has supported the pollution-reducing measure since its inception.
Along with his signature on the bill, the Governor released a statement recognizing New York’s struggle with plastic bag waste and the need to solve the problem. An estimated 23 billion plastic bags are used annually by New Yorkers, and in the city alone, annual disposal costs add up to an average of $12.5 million according to the New York City Department of Sanitation. In spite of these statistics the Governor argued that it was necessary to overturn the bag fee, stating that the measure was flawed as the 5-cent fee benefited vendors, who were allowed to keep the fee.
To address statewide plastic bag waste, the Governor pledged to create a task force to research and develop a plan to resolve the issue. Governor Cuomo plans to work with the Senate and Assembly to expedite the creation of the task force, which will finish their research by the end of this year and will prepare a report with legislative proposals.
The creation of a task force does not necessarily mean that there will be a quick and effective solution to the problem. New Yorkers must make their voices heard if the state’s plastic bag waste is ever to be resolved. If no efforts are made and state officials are not held accountable nothing will get done. Carryout bag pollution will continue to damage the environment and cost taxpayers millions of dollars if an effective solution is not found quickly.
Governor Cuomo’s decision to overturn the City Council’s attempt to create an effective solution to plastic bag pollution is currently being analyzed by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. Many believe the Governor’s decision to remove the fee was used to demonstrate the power of the state over New York City. Speaker Mark-Viverito expressed her frustration with the Governor’s action when she explained, “We believe very strongly that the governor’s responsibility is to uphold and to support and to defend the rights of localities — this sets a very bad precedent, and that is what we are pushing against,” Although this sets some tension between the state and the city regarding this issue we have yet to see any solution pending the creation of the task force. Currently the City Council is researching legal measures to challenge the Governor’s bag fee moratorium.
Despite the setback, the New York League of Conservation Voters will continue to advocate for a solution to plastic bag pollution while also holding the state accountable making sure they put New Yorkers and the environment first. The NYLCV commends those thirty-two members of the Senate and the Assembly who stood up for a cleaner and more efficient New York. Their efforts along with others who supported the carryout bag fee will not end in vain as they helped to foster a state dialogue to resolve statewide plastic bag waste.