July 2020 Legislative Roundup

The State Legislature recently passed several of our priority bills that will improve water quality, protect natural areas, remove toxins from our environment, and encourage clean transportation.

A. 8767-A/S. 8663-A, sponsored by Assembly Member Billy Jones and Senator Tim Kennedy, will establish the Adirondack road salt reduction task force, pilot plan, and test program. The new bill aims to ensure safe wintertime travel while reducing pollution from excessive road salt. When road salt leaches into surface and groundwater, it can release heavy metals and other toxic substances that affect drinking water supplies, harm aquatic ecosystems, and threaten tree and plant communities. The test program will run from 2021-24 to identify the best measures to reduce the negative impacts of road salt pollution and protect clean water in the Adirondacks.

A. 5839-A/S. 5041 will amend the Westchester County administrative code to repeal the county’s ability to sell parkland without state approval. Before this bill was passed, Westchester was the only county in New York state that could alienate parkland without state intervention. The bill, sponsored by Assembly Member Amy Paulin and Senator Shelly Mayer, will protect parklands that support public health and the environment. Preserving parklands are a key strategy in maintaining community health, biodiversity, and resilience to climate change.

As an amendment to the state’s environmental conservation law, S. 6829-B/A. 8829-A bans certain uses of the harmful chemical trichloroethylene (TCE). The bill bans the use of TCE as a vapor degreaser, an intermediate chemical, a refrigerant, an extraction solvent, or in any other manufacturing or cleaning processes. TCE, identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as one of the most frequently detected chemicals found in groundwater, is a highly toxic carcinogen that impacts early-life development and the immune system, and is associated with neurological damage. This bill, sponsored by Assembly Member Steve Englebright and Senator Todd Kaminsky, protects public health and natural resources.

Another bill that recently passed, S. 6758-A/A. 10803-A criminalizes illegal dumping, which harms community safety, public health, and the environment. The bill, sponsored by Senator Kaminsky and Assembly Member Englebright, was introduced in response to multiple illegal dumping scandals on Long Island.

A. 4739/S. 8817, sponsored by Assembly Member Patricia Fahy and Senator Brad Hoylman, will ban harmful PFAS chemicals in food packaging. These substances—perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl—are commonly used as anti-stick coatings that keep grease and other liquids from leaking. We now know that PFAS are linked to cancer and other adverse health effects, and that manufacturing such chemicals has contaminated Hoosick Falls’ water supply. PFAS chemicals in firefighting foam are responsible for contamination in Newburgh. PFAS can also contaminate food when used in packaging, and this bill will protect public health from the adverse impacts of PFAS in food packaging.

Finally, A. 8349/S. 5612-A will give the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) regulatory authority over Class C streams, giving the DEC necessary tools to protect valuable and vulnerable water resources. Class C streams were previously not regulated under the DEC’s Protection of Waters Regulatory Program, which allowed potentially harmful activities to take place in them without permits or government oversight. This bill, sponsored by Assembly Member Sean Ryan and Senator Peter Harckham, is especially important as the federal government is rolling back many regulations that are meant to protect streams and wetlands.

NYLCV is grateful to the environmental champions, and the Assembly Members and Senators who voted for these bills, for showing that environmental conservation doesn’t take a summer vacation.