New York (STL.News) Governor Kathy Hochul signed a legislative package that included eight different bills to protect New York State’s environment. New efforts range from eliminating plastic waste to ensuring the state’s commitment to clean water and an atmosphere free of chemical contaminants.
“Climate change and pollution are two of the most serious issues affecting New Yorkers’ health and quality of life,” Governor Hochul said. “These pieces of legislation will ensure our state remains a national leader, not only in the fight for clean air and water, but in securing a cleaner, more sustainable future for generations as well.”
Chemical Additions to the List of Emerging Contaminants
Legislation (S.1759-A/A.0126-A) amends the public health law to establish New York State’s first emerging contaminants list, as well as expand the list of chemicals to be included. This legislation requires the list be published within 90 days as well as updating of the list every three years. By requiring the inclusion of chemicals listed on the EPA’s third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR-3) that have already been detected in water systems in the state, New York will gain a better understanding of the levels of exposure. The creation of New York’s first emerging contaminant list, which would include most UCMR-3 chemicals and some of the most recent emerging contaminants, would provide the public with critical water quality information, protect public health, and inform the Department of Health on what chemicals need drinking water standards. This testing is a crucial means to begin a proactive approach to regulating drinking water contaminants in New York.
Senator James Skoufis said, “New York’s families can have peace of mind knowing robust safeguards will soon be in place to rigorously test and monitor their water. The fight against PFOS/PFOA and other contaminants continues, but this new law ensures no small municipality or isolated water system will go without the necessary testing to identify these harmful chemicals in our drinking water. I am grateful to the many environmental stakeholders who worked tirelessly to get this bill across the finish line, and I thank Governor Hochul for her support of this necessary legislation.”
Reducing Plastic Waste
Legislation (S.0543/A.5082) reduces plastic pollution by restricting hotels from providing certain small plastic containers for hospitality personal care products. In 2017, the world produced 348 million tons of plastic. Of that, 40 percent was used to produce single-use plastic products. This legislation takes important steps to limit the unnecessary environmental impact of single-use plastics, especially in light of viable alternatives such as dispensers for example, which have also proven to be more cost effective for hotels.
State Senator Todd Kaminsky said, “Simple, commonsense actions like eliminating disposable plastic bottles in hotels can make an enormous difference in safeguarding our environment for generations to come. By working with the hospitality industry to prohibit hotels from distributing single-use toiletries, we will eliminate more than 27 million small plastic bottles annually in New York City alone. I was proud to sponsor this legislation, which marks an important step in combating single-use plastic pollution, protecting our marine life and setting an example for our nation.”
Soil Health and Climate Resiliency Act
Legislation (S.4722-A/A.5386-A) establishes the ‘Soil Health and Climate Resiliency Act’ to enhance and maintain the health of soil on farms to improve farm productivity, protect natural resources, reduce the effect of farming on climate change and mitigate the impact of climate change on farming. The Soil Health initiative would have the Department of Agriculture and Markets, in cooperation with the State Soil and Water Conservation Committee, and other partners encourage farmers in urban, suburban and rural communities to adapt soil health practices to optimize soil health. The Climate Resiliency initiative would encourage the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions on farmland or promote the adaptation of farmland to projected climate change impacts. The Department, with input from stakeholders with expertise, would develop voluntary soil health standards for different regions. These efforts will be coordinated with the Agricultural Environmental Management program.
State Senator Michelle Hinchey said, “The Soil Health and Climate Resiliency Act is the first major piece of legislation in New York that paves the way for farmers, who are already leading on environmental management, to become a cornerstone of our fight against the climate crisis. When future generations ask us what we did to reverse the effects of climate change, we will point to the investments we made in regenerative agriculture and the transformative partnerships we forged with farmers whose stewardship helped save our planet. The signing of this legislation by Governor Hochul puts New York agriculture front and center in the fight to remove carbon from the atmosphere and make our state a national leader on climate mitigation. I thank the Governor for her support, my Assembly counterpart Donna Lupardo, and the bipartisan group of agricultural and environmental organizations that are committed to driving holistic climate change solutions forward.”
Assembly member Donna Lupardo said, “The Soil Health and Climate Resiliency Act recognizes the vital role agriculture can play in helping the state achieve its climate goals. It starts off with the simple premise that the health and resiliency of New York’s agricultural soil is an important priority. Healthy soil produces healthier foods, mitigates climate change through carbon sequestration, and protects our natural resources. Sometimes referred to as regenerative agriculture, this bill is a first step toward encouraging a ‘culture of soil health’ in New York State. I’d like to thank Senator Hinchey for her partnership on this issue, and to Governor Hochul for recognizing the importance of nurturing and protecting New York soil.”
Lead-Free Water in Schools
Legislation (S.2122-A/A.0160-B) will ensure that drinking water in schools is safe from lead contamination by expanding lead testing, increasing test frequency, and lowering lead levels. Children are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of lead, so much so that the experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization agree that there is no safe level of lead for children. High lead levels in children can bring lifetime problems including reduced cognitive function, learning disabilities, and aggressive behavior. More than 82% of public schools reported at least one drinking water tap that exceeded the action level, currently set in regulation at 0.015 milligrams per liter. That action level will be reduced to .005 milligrams per liter under this legislation. This will establish the most stringent lead protections for the largest population of students in the country. In addition, the funding for this testing and remediation is provided for under the State’s Clean Water Infrastructure Act and the new federal Infrastructure and Jobs Act.
State Senator Gustavo Rivera said, “As young New Yorkers continue to be exposed to lead poisoning at an alarming rate, this new law will ensure that we are proactive about testing and remediating lead in our school’s drinking water. I want to thank Governor Hochul for signing this critical bill into law, which will further help protect our children from the dangerous effects of lead contamination while at school.”
Assembly member Richard Gottfried said, “The new emerging contaminants and school lead laws are crucial steps in ensuring public access to clean, safe drinking water. New York has been a leader on water quality protection, and we must remain pro-active in monitoring and enforcing the most protective environmental health standards. I commend Governor Hochul, Senate sponsors James Skoufis and Gustavo Rivera, and all the advocates and communities across the State whose work helped get these bills signed into law.”
Prohibiting Pesticides at Children’s Overnight and Day Camps
Legislation (S.4478-A/S.0528-A) extends New York State’s school anti-pesticide laws to children’s overnight and summer day camps. This act will ensure that no children’s overnight or summer day camp applies pesticide to any playground, athletic or playing field. Anti-pesticide legislation does not currently apply to these camps, where children play and spend time exactly as they do in school. This bill will ensure that children can play in a safe and chemical-free environment, while taking into consideration emergency situations, in which the use of pesticide is determined as necessary by the competent authority for public safety reasons.
State Senator Samra Brouk said, “We know that pesticides are linked to several health hazards, especially for children with developing bodies and brains. That’s why New York made the common-sense decision to ban pesticide use on school grounds in 2011. Now, in 2021, we have continued to protect our young people by passing legislation that would similarly ban the use of pesticides at summer camps. When at camp, children spend many hours outdoors and on fields. Yet research shows that even minute amounts of exposure to pesticides can have long-term negative impacts on our children. I’m proud to have championed this effort in the Senate, and I am grateful to Assembly member Paulin for doing the same in the Assembly, and to Governor Hochul for signing our legislation into law.”
Assembly member Amy Paulin said, “I’m so proud to have passed this landmark, first-in-the-nation legislation with Senator Samra Brouk, which bans the use of pesticides at children’s day and overnight camps. This ban has been in place in New York State for over a decade for all school playing fields under the Child Safe Playing Fields Act – so we know it works. Now, whether at school or camp, kids will be able to enjoy their time outdoors in health and safety. Thank you Governor Hochul for signing this bill into law and taking this significant step to improve the lives of New York’s children.”
Addressing Rates of Asthma
Legislation (S.0646-B/A.2670-B) directs the New York State Department of Health to conduct a study on the incidences of asthma in cities and towns having a population of more than 90,000. Asthma rates have been surging in the United States for many years. On October 12, 2013 The New York Times reported that Asthma affects about 40 million Americans making it the most common chronic disease that affects Americans of all ages. The New York Times further stated that, “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts the annual cost of asthma in the United States at more than $56 billion, including millions of potentially avoidable hospital visits and more than 3,300 deaths…” Asthma rates tend to be higher in urban areas with clusters in poorer neighborhoods. This bill will require the Department of Health to research the depth of the Asthma crisis in New York’s cities and towns and pinpoint the areas of Asthma clusters.
State Senator James Sanders Jr. said, “As we are still in the midst of this devastating pandemic I would like to commend the Governor for signing into law this legislation to do a statewide study on asthma as the health and well-being of all the residents of New York state is of the utmost importance and urgency at this moment.”?
Assembly member Alicia Hyndman said, “Over the years, we’ve seen an increase in asthma rates in urban areas such as Southeast Queens. It’s only right for us to study the depth of this crisis in order to efficiently and effectively put policies in place to help treat, control and prevent it for our current and future constituents as we continue to battle an asthma crisis.”
Studying Health and Quality of Life Impacts of New York Airports
Legislation (S.0966-B/A.2140-B) directs the Department of Environmental Conservation to conduct a study on the quality of life and human health impacts at John F. Kennedy international and LaGuardia airports. Communities in Nassau and Suffolk counties and parts of New York City are experiencing a declining quality of life due to noise pollution, environmental health impacts, and other possible ill effects from air traffic patterns around JFK and LaGuardia airports. Noise complaints in affected neighborhoods have skyrocketed as a result of changing air traffic patterns and too many planes flying on low approaches to these airports. This has led to a near-constant and deafening noise level that studies have shown is frequently above the day-night average noise level (DNL) of 65 decibels (dB), which is considered a significant aviation noise threshold.
State Senator Jim Gaughran said, “This bill will help to finally determine the potential for health risks for local residents caused by low flying planes. I want to thank my colleague Assemblywoman Judy Griffin for her leadership on this issue and Governor Hochul for signing this important legislation into law.”
Assembly member Judy Griffin said, “For far too long, my constituents as well as residents throughout Long Island, Queens, and Brooklyn have continued to experience a detrimental impact and a diminished quality of life from the excessive daily noise of air traffic above their homes. This excessive noise, which often exceeds accepted decibel levels, has continued unabated for decades and has had a detrimental impact on the well-being of residents. While air traffic is primarily a federal jurisdiction, this state study will scientifically validate what residents already know – the noise is excessive, harmful to humans and needs to be better regulated and mitigated. Although we will always endure a level of airplane noise, the goal of this study is to serve as a call to action for the Federal Government to act to remediate. I thank Governor Hochul for signing A2140-B into law today.” ?
Bioheating Fuel Requirements
Legislation (S.3321-A/A.7290) makes statewide heating consumption less harmful to the environment by establishing minimum levels of biodiesel in all heating oil for use in any building in the state. By July 2022 all heating oil sold must be bioheating fuel that contains at least 5 percent biodiesel, rising to 10 percent by July 2025. Switching to bioheating fuel reduces the emissions of multiple pollutants and greenhouse gasses. These emissions cause various health issues including respiratory and cardiovascular harm. Any reduction in these emissions would benefit public and environmental health. Additionally, the mixing of bioheating fuel in heating oil will help reach the State’s goals as detailed in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.
State Senator Todd Kaminsky said, “Bioheat is a cleaner, more sustainable heating source than the petroleum oil currently used to warm most homes and businesses. Switching to bioheat will reduce emissions known to cause health issues as well as harm to the environment. This is a step in the right direction that will protect the health of New Yorkers and help us meet our state’s climate goals outlined in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. Thank you to Governor Hochul for signing this measure.”
Assembly member Steve Englebright said, “Reduction in greenhouse gasses as a result of increased biofuel usage, as well as reducing costly and inefficient single-use plastics will massively benefit both human health and environmental sustainability. I am proud to have sponsored these critically important pieces of legislation that will go a long way to alleviating the environmental strain of harmful pollutants and wasteful plastic consumption, and I want to thank Governor Hochul for signing them into law.”