This Year in Albany

For the 2010 legislative session in Albany there are two very different stories to tell on environmental policy. One very good, and the other pretty bad.

On the good side, more positive environmental and public health legislation became law than any other year I can recall in 20 years of working on environmental issues.

Some very important bills that were passed and signed into law:

  • Pesticide Restrictions at Schools & Daycare Centers
  • Smart Growth Infrastructure
  • Electronic Waste Recycling
  • Ultra low sulfur heating oil requirement
  • Net metering fix
  • Phosphorus Reduction
  • Ban on BPA in products for infants

The major reason for much of this success was the fact that for the first time in many decades one party controlled both houses of the NY State Legislature and the Governor’s office. Much of the gridlock (but not all) that had been a way of life in Albany was eliminated, or at least greatly reduced.

In addition, the DEC has moved to enforce a more than 30 year old law requiring manufacturers to disclose the ingredients and possible health effects of cleaning products.

The bad side has mostly to do with money.

  • Funding was cut from the New York State Environmental Protection Fund by almost 40%
  • DEC funding was cut almost 14%
  • Parks funding cut 15%
  • DEC Commissioner Grannis was fired after a his memo detailing the impacts of layoffs off over 200 employees was leaked to the press.

The economic crisis has hit NewYork hard, and cuts have been made in many important programs. Unfortunately, the harm to the environment that occurs when these programs are cut can be substantial, and long lasting, or even permanent.

Some good environmental legislation was stalled as well:

  • Amendment to energy conservation construction code to require higher standards and third party verification of new home energy performance.
  • Fix of PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy financing) legislation passed last year, to allow sustainable funding sources for these programs.

The failure of these laws to get passed has more to do with the relatively low priority that environmental and energy legislation often get in Albany. These bills would have benefitted greatly from greater involvement and leadership from the Governor’s office. However, the ongoing budget battle consumed much of the Governor’s and the Legislature’s attention for much of the session. The energy conservation construction code amendment in particular was harmed by a competing bill from the Governor’s office that was advanced very late in the legislative session, and the lack of interest from the Governor’s office in working to reconcile the two bills.

What can we do about it?

  • Find out about the environmental positions and record of the candidates running for office.
  • Vote for the candidate who’s record and positions match your concern for the environment.
  • Let your elected officials know that the environment is important to you, and their performance on those issues influence your vote.
  • Help us build an environmental movement on Long Island!
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