NYC’s Bag Bill Threatened by Albany….Again

Politicians in the New York State Legislature are attempting to pass the S.362/A.1750 to undo New York City’s carryout bag reduction measure. The 5 cent fee was approved by the New York City Council in May of 2016 in hopes of promoting a cleaner and healthier environment. Plastic bags are known to run rampant throughout the streets of New York, causing problems throughout the sewer systems, negatively impacting flora and fauna, as well as polluting the bodies of water surrounding the city. In addition, it takes over 7,000 truck trips to transport more than 10 billion discarded bags at a cost of $12.5 million taxpayer dollars to transport them to landfills where they take millions of years to degrade.

Conversely, if a bill passed through the State Senate last week, ushered through by Senator Felder,, this environmentally advantageous regulation could  be undone.

Over 200 municipalities in the United States, spanning eighteen states and the District of Columbia, have adopted measures to reduce plastic bag consumption. The list continues to grow with the City of Long Beach and Suffolk County enacting such measures last year. And the facts overwhelmingly demonstrate that these policies work: each place has seen a 60-90 percent reduction in the number of bags used.

Unlike last year’s bill, which died in the Assembly, the amended version targets only New York City, rather than all cities around the state. Marcia Bystryn, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters, issued harsh words in response to the change:

“This year’s version of Senator Felder’s bill is even more egregious and arbitrary than the one that died year. Why should cities of one million or more — New York City — not be able to enact a tried and true pro-environment measure when Suffolk County, with its population of more than a million, will keep its nearly identical law in place? Enacting this bill would be a grave mistake not only for its regressive environmental consequences but also because it sets a dangerous precedent.”

Through passing the Bill S362, the New York State Legislature is challenging New York City’s authority, preventing the city from taking its own political measures for self-improvement. The Bill also contains an unjustifiable clause prohibiting any city within New York State with a population greater than one million people from imposing any type of plastic bag tax. Therefore, smaller cities such as Poughkeepsie, where plastic bag pollution pales in comparison to that of New York City, can impose their own bag tax while New York City cannot.

Though the State Assembly is in talks with the New York City Council and Mayor to reach a compromise, some believe momentum is building for the legislation to pass both houses. If that were to happen, it will be up to Governor Cuomo to veto the bill.