Key Environmental Legislation Awaits Governor Hochul’s Signature

By Peter Aronson

The New York League of Conservation Voters is urging Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign a bevy of bills that passed the State Legislature in the 2023 session. These are key bills in our continued fight for a cleaner environment and more sustainable New York. 

These six bills range from ensuring clean drinking water for New Yorkers and oversight of New York’s waterways to protecting the state’s food sources and planning for the construction of more EV charging stations around the state.

We urge the governor to sign the following bills as soon as possible:

1. Lead Pipe Right to Know Act (A. 6115/S. 5512): 

This act would require public water utilities to take service line inventories and make this info easily available to the public. This would help the state and local communities understand the full extent of lead service problems in New York State and better allow the state and local communities to remove the pipes and deliver lead-free drinking water to all New Yorkers.

Specifically, it codifies requirements by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and guidance from the NYS Department of Health for each water utility to develop a comprehensive inventory of all of the service lines in its system by October 2024, and to regularly update those inventories with new information. It also requires the NYS Department of Health to make those inventories available on the department’s website, and to create interactive maps allowing New Yorkers to easily learn their risk of lead exposure.

The Federal Environmental Protection Agency estimates that there are at least 494,000 lead service lines in the state, putting New York State as one of the top six states with the most lead service lines.

2. Class C Streams Act (A. 4601/S. 1725-A): 

Class C streams, which are designated to support fisheries and other non-contact activities, are not currently protected under New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation’s Protection of Waters Regulatory Program (PWRP). This means that many potentially harmful activities can take place in these waterways without permits or oversight from the state. This bill, if signed by the governor, would add Class C streams to the PWRP, giving the DEC additional tools to protect valuable and vulnerable natural resources. These additional resources would help provide resilience against the impacts of climate change and protect critical natural habitats for fish like trout. It is vital that Class C Streams are given the same regulatory oversight as Class A and B Streams.

3. Highway and Depot Charging Action Plan (A. 5052/S. 4830-C): 

In order for New York State to attain its goal of zero carbon emissions from cars, pickups and SUVs by 2025, it’s imperative that New York State increase its EV infrastructure around the state by installing charging ports on highways and in depots. As EV use increases, drivers need to be confident that they can “charge up” when needed in a convenient, cost-effective way. 

Not only would establishing a strong charging infrastructure decrease reliance on fossil fuels and reduce emissions from gas vehicles, it also would create jobs from the manufacturing and installation of charging stations and hasten our transition to a clean energy economy. The bill establishes a highway and depot charging action plan to assist in achieving targets set forth by the climate leadership and community protection act.

4. Geothermal Boreholes Expansion (A. 6949/S. 6604):

With increasing investment in renewable energy sources and building electrification, it is crucial that proper regulations are set so energy sources such as geothermal boreholes are utilized properly and safely. Geothermal boreholes deeper than 500 feet provide highly efficient heating and cooling with ground source heat pumps, and are a vital component in the effort for widespread building electrification.

Currently, there are many financial and permitting barriers for geothermal boreholes deeper than 500 feet in New York State. They are grouped with oil and gas wells in by-well regulations despite not posing adverse environmental impacts like oil and gas wells do, needlessly increasing costs and permitting barriers. This bill would exempt geothermal boreholes from the same regulations as oil and gas wells, ensuring that investment in renewable geothermal energy is not hindered. This bill would also allow the Department of Environmental Conservation to set appropriate regulations on geothermal boreholes.

5. Birds and Bees Protection Act (A. 7640/S. 1856-A):

The act would eliminate the use of unnecessary and harmful pesticides by New York farms. These so-called “neurotoxic neonicotinoid” pesticides devastate bees, birds and other pollinators critical to New York’s food security, agriculture and environment. Pollinators help in the production of an estimated $1.2 billion worth of New York crops, including apples, squash, tomatoes, blueberries, and cherries, among others pollinator-dependent produce. But just last year, the average New York beekeeper lost more than 45% of their honey bee colonies— one of the worst years on record, with overwhelming scientific evidence that these pesticides are causing these pollinator declines.

6. Community Right to Know Act (A. 3964/S. 3365): 

The act would require the disclosure of insurance information, including the name of the insurance company, the amount of coverage and what is covered under their plan, on permit applications for the construction of pipelines upon any freshwater wetlands. Freshwater wetlands are important ecosystems that provide several ecological benefits such as carbon sequestration, water filtration, and wildlife habitat. Pipelines constructed upon these wetlands can damage or destroy these ecosystems, leading to significant economic and environmental impacts. 

Requiring pipeline companies to disclose this information also ensures that they are held accountable for any damages or environmental impacts that come with the construction of pipelines upon freshwater wetlands. Additionally, New Yorkers have the right to transparency and safety concerning pipeline construction near their communities. By requiring the disclosure of insurance information, the public can have a better understanding of the safety measures and risks associated with pipeline construction so New Yorkers can make better informed decisions. 

We urge all New Yorkers to write to Gov. Hochul in support of these six important pieces of environmental legislation.