The New York State Solid Waste Examiner
News From Assemblymember William Colton
Chair, Legislative Commission on Solid Waste Management

4 Empire State Plaza, 5th Floor, Albany, NY 12248 • (518) 455-3711 Summer Edition 2003


Budget Highlights

Waste Tire Cleanups

NYC Recycling

Recycling Incentives

Electronics Recycling

Bigger, Better Bottle Bill

EPA New Source Review

Regulating PM2.5

Brownfields Legislation

Patrick Golden
Marilyn M. DuBois
Percival Miller

Assemblyman William Colton Dear Colleagues and Friends:

We have had a most interesting and challenging year. Certainly one of our greatest successes was the inclusion of a Waste Tire Management and Recovery Program in this year’s budget. The Assembly has championed this program for many years and annually approved legislation to establish and fund a waste tire program.

The FY 2003-04 Budget proved to be a significant challenge as the Legislature took on the Governor. In a highly unusual move, the Assembly and the Senate overrode all of the Governor’s vetos, thereby preserving critical funding for education, health, environmental conservation and other programs. Importantly for solid waste management, much-needed increases in appropriations for the Environmental Protection Fund recycling programs were included. A more detailed discussion of the environmental impacts of the Budget can be found in this newsletter.

We have continued our advocacy for the proper management, reuse and recycling of electronic equipment. Two key Commission bills passed by the Assembly were the Electronic Equipment Recycling Act and the Wireless Telephone Recycling legislation. The Commission visited a successful electronic equipment recycling and reuse facility in Glenville.

The Assembly has also examined the issue of expanding the Returnable Container Act to include other types of beverage containers as well as direct unclaimed deposits to help fund municipal recycling programs (the "Bigger, Better Bottle Bill"). Several hearings have been held this year and Assemblymember DiNapoli, Chair of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee advanced the bill to the Assembly Rules Committee before the Assembly adjourned.

A number of Assembly members, including myself, submitted testimony to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its proposed changes to the New Source Review of power plants. We strongly criticized EPA for proposing to weaken the current requirements which would allow mid-western power plants to continue impacting the Northeast without installing proper emissions controls. A summary of our testimony is included in this newsletter.

The Commission continues to monitor the recycling program in New York City and is very encouraged that Hugo Neu Schnitzer has reached an agreement with the City to recycle metals and plastics. I believe it is critically important that we hold the City to a comprehensive resource recycling program.

Other issues occupying the Commission this year include Superfund reauthorization and establishment of a Brownfields redevelopment program, completion of our annual report "Where Will the Garbage Go?" and regulation of cathode ray tubes (CRTs).

I hope that you enjoy this publication and find it interesting and informative. Please feel free to contact my office with your comments and concerns.


Legislature Increases EPF Appropriations for Recycling Programs

This was a most unusual year for State Budget negotiations. In his proposed Budget for Fiscal Year 2003-04, the Governor recommended funding reductions in critical programs, including aid to education, public health and environmental protection. In response, the Legislature’s Budget proposal made more than 1,200 changes to the Governor’s Budget, of which the Governor vetoed approximately 120. The Legislature immediately overrode these gubernatorial vetoes, restoring funding for these important programs.

The Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) was no exception - the Governor’s proposed EPF cuts would have left critical environmental programs far short of their funding needs. The Governor’s proposed levels for EPF recycling programs were particularly inadequate since 1996 Environmental Bond Act funds for recycling will soon be depleted. EPF recycling programs had been recently expanded to provide funding for pollution prevention projects and municipal recycling education efforts.

In the FY 2002/2003 Budget, EPF appropriations were made for two fiscal years - 2001/02 and 2002/03. Solid waste appropriations for FY 2001/02 were $5.225 million for the Municipal Recycling program and $5.225 million for the Secondary Materials program. The appropriations for the same programs for FY 2002/03 were $5 million each. In the FY 2003/2004 budget, the Governor recommended reduced appropriations of $4 million each for the Municipal Recycling and Secondary Materials programs. The Legislature rejected these reductions, instead providing appropriations of $6.5 million for each of the programs.

By increasing the appropriations for the EPF’s recycling programs from previous fiscal years, the Legislature has maintained the importance and priority for these local environmental initiatives. The following chart illustrates the funding levels for these programs over the past several years.

Environmental Protection Fund Solid Waste Appropriations from
FY98/99 to FY03/04
(millions of $)
EPF Category FY98-99 FY99-00 FY00-01 FY01-02 FY02-03 Gov’s RecsFY03-04 Enacted FY03-04
Municipal Recycling 6.000 4.500 6.225 5.225 5.000 4.000 6.500
Secondary Materials 6.000* 4.500 5.000 5.225 4.995 4.000 6.500

*In FY 98/99, an appropriation of $6.25 million was enacted by the legislature for Secondary Materials, but $.25 million was vetoed by the Governor.

The two pie charts below provide a comparison of Solid Waste funding from the EPF for FY 1998-99 and FY 2003-04. The principal difference in funding levels for the Solid Waste category occurs because of the completion of landfill closures.

pie chart pie chart


Assemblymember Colton was pleased to see one of his legislative priorities - establishing a program with dedicated funding to address the State’s significant waste tire problem - enacted into law in the Fiscal Year 2003/04 Budget. Colton has been the sponsor of legislation to create this program for the past three years.

The Waste Tire Utilization and Management Fund established in the budget will be generated from a $2.50 fee per new tire sold in the State. The half-year fees are expected to yield approximately $28 million to the Fund, of which $8 million will be directed this year to waste tire cleanups and markets development. This funding level is consistent with the $16 million annual amount recommended by the State Scrap Tire Council. The Council also recommended a seven-year sunset provision for of the Fund, which also was included in the Budget.

The Waste Tire Utilization and Management Fund provides money not only for cleaning up stockpiles but also fostering markets for waste tire reuse and recycling applications. Several agencies, including the Empire State Development Corporation, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the Thruway Authority, and Department of Transportation, will play a role in helping to strengthen and develop markets for waste tires in the State.

New Yorkers generate an estimated 15 to 20 million waste tires per year. While it is believed that the vast majority of the waste tires generated at present are being properly managed, a slight change in market forces could potentially alter the current situation so that many more waste tires are deposited in a greater number of illegal sites.

Waste tires have for many years posed one of the most problematic waste streams in New York State. For decades, waste tires have been stacked high in ever-growing piles as the generation of waste tires far exceeded the market uses of this scrap. These piles, many of which now hold millions of waste tires, pose significant threats to public health and the environment.

Possibly the most prevalent danger posed by the tire stockpiles is their risk of igniting and developing into hot, smoky, and difficult-to-extinguish fires. New York State has experienced at least 16 waste tire fires since January 1994. For example, a substantial fire last year at a multi-million scrap tire dumpsite in Waterford, Saratoga County, provides a vivid example of the severe threat imposed by these sites. The fire at this defunct tire processing site forced people to evacuate from their homes, put the public at risk from fire and noxious smoke, imposed risks to an adjacent chemical plant, and threatened contamination to surface and ground water. While the environmental and health impacts were significant, they might have been far worse, since the fire was limited to a small portion of the dumpsite. The State had already spent $3.2 million at the site to make it less dangerous.

A recent Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) census identified over 105 illegal waste tire stockpile sites which are estimated to contain a total of over 30 million tires. Industry representatives estimate that the number of waste tires at these sites could range well beyond 50 million. The potential dangers that these sites pose are of great concern, clearly needing to be addressed in a timely manner.

recycling arrows COMMISSION FOCUSES ON RECYCLING INCENTIVES recycling arrows
Recycling Reductions in NYC Challenged by Chairman Colton

Ever-Changing New York City Recycling Program

Chairman Colton continues to advocate for maintaining a comprehensive materials recycling program in NYC on a schedule that is easy to understand and implement. In July 2002, the recycling of New York City residential plastic and glass containers was suspended with the intent of cutting costs. The suspension for plastic recycling was one year and two years for glass. Additionally, the City established a Joint Task Force of the Mayor and City Council to seek out and report on means of improving the effectiveness of the City’s recycling program. Roundtables were held and experts were consulted to assist the Task Force, which issued a report in April 2003 with numerous recommendations.

The City’s Department of Sanitation (NYCDS) recently initiated what it termed "cost-cutting" measures in its waste management practices. The frequency of residential waste and recyclables collection was to be scaled back in many neighborhoods. Assemblyman Colton felt that decreasing frequency of collections of waste or recyclables would generate far greater burdens for New York residents in pest and storage problems than benefits realized in minor cost-savings from reduced collections. Furthermore, less frequent recycling pickups would likely cause a decline in residents’ interest in recycling, ultimately harming recycling participation.

Chairman Colton led a group of more than sixty Assembly and Senate members, calling on the Sanitation Commissioner to restore the regular collection schedule. A copy of their May 28, 2003 letter follows:

May 28, 2003

John J. Doherty, Commissioner
New York City Department of Sanitation
125 Worth Street
New York, New York 10013

Dear Commissioner Doherty:

We, representatives to the New York State Legislature from New York City, are writing to urge you to reconsider the decision to reduce regular trash collection to once a week and recycling collection to once every two weeks.

Such a reduction will seriously impact on the quality of life for the residents in the areas affected by the reductions.

The efficiency and effectiveness of New York City’s recycling efforts will be seriously undermined. Many people will not store recyclables for two weeks (or more if they miss a pick-up), costing the City more money for disposal of recyclables as regular garbage. New York City has already experienced a major setback with the suspension of recycling for plastics and glass. Recycling is an essential component to solid waste management, especially at this time of dwindling landfill space and the high cost of disposal of solid waste. New York City must do whatever it can to encourage recycling, not discourage it as the lack of weekly pickups is likely to do.

The timing of the reduction to coincide with the heat of summer is also imprudent. The accumulation of garbage and recyclables in the summer will create serious problems, including rat problems, not to mention odors as well.

Whatever savings New York City may envisage by implementing this shortsighted measure will more than be offset by the negative impacts on residents as well as the costs of a reduced level of recycling which such cutbacks will cause.


On July 1 2003, plastics were added to paper and metal recycling programs on a two week collection schedule until April 2004. At that time, glass will be added to the schedule and apparently the recyclables collection schedule will be changed to weekly. Garbage collection schedules will remain what they are currently.

photo Chairman Colton examines mixed garbage and recyclables being thrown away in his district.
While it is encouraging that the City is restoring its recycling program, constantly changing schedules for collection and the variation of what is collected when will undoubtedly cause much confusion and disaffection with City residents. Assemblyman Colton continues to urge the City to develop one schedule for all recyclables as soon as possible in order to ensure the greatest compliance and the least confusion for residents. Colton has also strongly recommended that the City provide a comprehensive citizen education program and sufficient advance notice for implementation of schedule changes.

A New Recycling Contractor is Chosen for the City

This year the recycling of residential plastics is to be re-started with a new contractor, Hugo Neu Schnitzer East, a company that was recently awarded a bid by the New York City Department of Sanitation (NYCDS). Under this contract, Hugo Neu will pay $5.15/ton for plastic and metal containers delivered to them by NYCDS. Hugo Neu submitted bids that were significantly lower than other bidders and dramatically lower than the City’s previous contracts. Additionally, Hugo Neu has proposed to add glass to the mix of containers for an additional charge that is currently being negotiated with the City.

Hugo Neu Schnitzer East is actually a scrap metal processing company that has been recycling metals for decades. Since the inception of New York City’s recycling program, bids have always been awarded to companies whose primary business is hauling and disposing of waste. The heavy involvement of a long-term successful scrap recycler promises to bring a new era to residential recycling in New York City.

Revisiting New York City’s Solid Waste Management Plan

Another major development in New York City’s waste management scheme occurred last summer when the Mayor announced changes to the City’s Solid Waste Management Plan. The amended plan will restore and refurbish the City’s existing marine transfer stations which will replace the current practice that utilizes land-based transfer stations. Currently the NYCDS collects more than 11,000 tons of residential waste daily and delivers it to City-wide transfer stations where it is loaded into larger tractor-trailers for transport via City streets, bridges and tunnels to out-of-state destinations.

Under the modified Plan, trucks would deliver waste to one of several NYCDS-operated marine transfer stations, where the waste would be transferred into containers. The containers would be loaded onto barges for delivery to the disposal destination. The modified Plan also supplants the long-term plan drafted but never finalized under the previous Mayor that would have utilized the marine transfer stations, with the majority of the waste being barged "un-containerized" to a massive containerizing inter-modal transport facility in Linden, New Jersey.

Assemblyman Colton expressed his agreement with the modified Plan, under the condition that the Plan’s major focus continue to be on its highest priorities - maximizing waste reduction and recycling efforts. Furthermore, Colton insisted that consideration of all environmental justice issues be appropriately addressed with the revamping of the marine transfer stations.

Commission Legislation Encouraging Reduction, Reuse and Recycling

The Commission has continued to develop initiatives that will encourage and enhance reduction, reuse and recycling in NYS. The status of Commission bills is as follows:

A 6259 COLTON, ENGLEBRIGHT, GRANNIS et al. – Mercury Removal from Vehicles: Establishes the Mercury-Free Vehicles Act, requiring removal, replacement, collection and recovery of mercury-added components from motor vehicles. Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee.

A 8462 Rules (COLTON, DiNAPOLI, M. COHEN) – Recyclables Separation: Requires municipalities to adopt a local law providing for source separation and disposal of recyclables; prohibits commingling of recyclables with other wastes. Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee.

A 3712 COLTON, ENGLEBRIGHT, et al. – Recycling Real Property Tax Exemption: Grants a real property tax exemption of 50% of the assessed value for land used for recycling. Assembly Real Property Taxation Committee.

A 2962 COLTON, ENGLEBRIGHT et al. – Recycling Sales Tax Exemption: Establishes a sales tax exemption for fees charged for transporting recyclables. Assembly Ways & Means Committee.

A 2960 COLTON, ENGLEBRIGHT, et al. – Pallet/Container Sales Tax Exemption: Establishes a sales tax exemption for the cost of renting pallets and containers for transport of materials for resale. Assembly Ways & Means Committee.

A 4516 COLTON, KOON, DINAPOLI, ENGLE-BRIGHT/S 900 MARCELLINO – Solid Waste Polluters Contracting: Prohibits solid waste polluters from procuring public contracts until debts to the State are satisfied. Assembly and Senate Environmental Conservation Committees.


photo Commission Chair Colton has made the recycling and reuse of electronic equipment a major priority for the Commission. Electronic equipment is one of the fastest-growing components of the waste stream nationally and in New York State. This equipment contains a number of toxic components, including lead, mercury, and heavy metals which may pose significant threats to our environment if improperly disposed. With the goal of ensuring the environmentally sound management of electronics discards, Assemblymember Colton has introduced several pieces of legislation.

Assemblymember Colton and Commission staff have visited several not-for-profit organizations and commercial companies that accept electronic equipment, particularly computers, for reuse, recycling and re-manufacture. While markets for these items are generally available, there are some aspects of recycling that need further attention.

Comprehensive Electronic Equipment Legislation

A 3633 Colton et al/ S 890 Marcellino et al.: One of Assemblymember Colton’s priority bills is the Electronic Equipment Recycling Act. The bill contains the following provisions:

  • Prohibits the disposal of cathode ray tubes (CRTs) in any solid waste disposal facility beginning January 1, 2006;
  • Creates the electronic equipment recycling program which is funded through the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), for waste reduction, reuse and recycling; and market development projects;
  • Directs the Commissioner of Environmental Conservation to establish a list of equipment targeted for recycling and to determine the best means of collecting and managing the recycling of this equipment; and
  • Establishes enforcement provisions for violations, including the disposal of CRTs.

This bill has passed the Assembly and is in the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee.

A 3073 Colton et al/S 897 Marcellino et al. – Electronic Equipment Recycling Standards and Guidelines: This bill would require the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to promulgate standards and guidelines for businesses that recycle, reuse and remanufacture electronic equipment. An increasing number of companies have been going in to the electronic equipment recycling, reuse and remanufacturing business. To ensure that these companies are properly handling such equipment, including the proper recovery of hazardous components, Assemblymember Colton believes that standards must be set for this industry. This bill has passed the Assembly and is in the Senate Rules Committee.

A 3075-B Colton et al – Wireless Telephone Recycling: The bill would require wireless phone retailers to accept them back for recycling and would make it unlawful to dispose of them as solid waste. According to the independent research organization INFORM, by 2005 wireless phones will be retired at an estimated annual rate of 130 million – contributing approximately 65,000 tons to the solid waste stream. While relatively small in size, these phones often contain significant amounts of toxins such as arsenic, antimony, beryllium, cadmium, copper, lead, nickel, and zinc, as well as bromated flame retardants. Senator Carl Marcellino has introduced a similar bill, S 903. The Assembly has passed A 3075-B.

A 6096 Colton et al – Electronic Equipment Producer Responsibility Act: The bill would establish extended producer responsibility for the proper disposition of waste electronic equipment identified as hazardous by DEC and would require manufacturers to establish collection centers for such equipment. This bill would ensure that manufacturers of electronic equipment containing hazardous components be responsible for these products at the end of their useful life. This bill is in the Environmental Conservation Committee.

A 2965 Colton et al/S 902 Marcellino et al - Electronic Equipment Recycling Tax Credit: As another encouragement for electronic equipment recycling, the bill would provide a personal income tax credit for costs incurred for recycling electronic equipment. This bill is in the Assembly Ways & Means Committee and the Senate Investigations Committee.

A 5302 Colton et al - Cathode-Ray Tube Regulation: This bill addresses the pollution risks posed by cathode-ray tubes (CRT’s), the largest component of the majority of television sets and computer monitors sold nationally. The bill would prohibit CRT’s from disposal in landfills and incinerators and would establish an electronic equipment recycling program to be funded through a $10 fee charged at the time of sale to be dedicated to the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). The bill is in the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee

A 3770 Colton et al – Disposable Cell Phone Ban: This bill would ban the sale of disposable cell phones. While disposable cell phones have not yet been widely marketed, this bill would prevent a potential proliferation of disposable units. The bill is in the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee.


photo Chairman Colton touring the new electronic equipment processing facility of Waste Management and Recycling in Glenville, NY.
Waste Management and Recycling, Glenville, NY
In 1989, Waste Management and Recycling Products was incorporated as an alternative to disposing of unwanted electronics in landfills. At first the company focused on telephone and communications equipment; by 1994, they began to accept computers, cathode ray tubes (CRTs) and other data equipment and office machinery.

In 1995, the company processed an average of 5 tons of electronic equipment per month which increased to 10 tons per month by 1998. Recently the company moved its disassembly and main operations into a 30,000 sq. ft. facility on Scotia-Glenville Industrial Park. The current throughput for this facility is 150 tons per month, with an estimated total throughput capacity of 500 tons per month. In March 2003, the company started a new program for recycling fluorescent light bulbs and ballasts.

In addition to the processing facility, the company also operates a business office in Schenectady where refurbished computers and other equipment can be purchased and where individuals can bring in electronic equipment to be recycled. Most of the company’s input is received from contracts with businesses and local governments. The company has worked with localities and counties in this region to conduct household electronic equipment collection programs.

Per Scholas, Bronx, NY

Per Scholas is a successful non-profit organization located in the South Bronx, founded in 1994 by a consortium of foundations and corporations to benefit children and the needy by providing new and reconditioned computers to schools and other non-profits at the lowest possible price. Tens of thousands of computers have been placed in thousands of schools since its inception. The organization also runs a significant training program, teaching young inner city residents to become computer technicians in a twelve-week program. Per Scholas would like to significantly increase its collection volume of computers, which could be achieved through further contracts with city agencies, schools and businesses.


photo Chairman Colton joins Assemblyman Thomas DiNapoli, Chair of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer in Yonkers, announcing the introduction of the expanded Bottle Bill.
In January 2003, Solid Waste Management Commission Chair William Colton again joined Assemblyman Thomas P. DiNapoli, Chair of the Environmental Conservation Committee, in the introduction of the "Bigger, Better Bottle Bill" (A 3922-Di Napoli/ S 1696-LaValle). Principal elements of the bill would expand the five-cent deposit to cover "non-carbonated" beverage containers and require that deposits from unredeemed containers fund local waste reduction and recycling programs. The bill advanced to the Assembly Ways and Means Committee before the Assembly adjourned.

The Returnable Container Law (a.k.a. the Bottle Bill) was originally enacted in 1982, and has proven remarkably successful in reducing litter and recycling beverage containers. It is estimated that more than 75 billion containers have been diverted from disposal into manufacture of useful products. The Bigger, Better Bottle Bill would update the law to significantly increase its success.

Newer non-deposit products like single-serving bottled water, juice, iced tea and sports drinks have grown to an estimated 22% of the drinks sold in New York State, increasing container litter on roadsides and other properties. This problem would be addressed in the new bill through the expansion of the deposit to non-carbonated beverage containers (except milk, infant formula, wine, and liquor).

The other major issue that A 3922 addresses is that local waste management systems handling the unredeemed containers receive little or no compensation. The bill would re-direct unclaimed deposits to fund these local waste reduction and recycling programs bearing the burden of managing unredeemed containers. Unclaimed deposits are currently held by the beverage industry (the deposit initiators).

In March 2003, the Assembly held hearings to obtain public input on the current Bottle Bill law and proposed amendments to that law. Testimony was sought on expanding the container deposit to "non-carbonated" beverages, re-directing unclaimed deposits, increasing the deposit from five to ten-cents, increasing the per-container handling fee from the current two-cents, and providing relief for space-limited inner-city retailers.

In response to the testimony, the Bigger Better Bottle Bill has been amended to provide some assistance to New York City-based retailers by fostering their cooperation with redemption centers. The changes would allow certain redemption centers to be eligible for funding through local recycling programs. Other amendments to the bill include:

  • exemption for containers larger than one gallon (3.8 liters);
  • requirement that dealers post conspicuous signs stating that the facility accepts empty returnables of the same type as sold;
  • allowance for NYC dealers to accept only 72 containers per person per visit per day if there is a redemption center within a half mile of the store that will take the containers; or requires dealer to accept up to 240 containers for a consecutive two hour period if no redemption center is available;
  • requirements for distributors to provide packaging containers at no cost to dealers/redemption centers; forbids distributors from requiring dealers to load distributor trucks; and allows retailers to be present for off-site counting of containers.

The sponsors of the Bigger Better Bottle Bill are actively promoting its passage by the Assembly. For further information on this bill and its status, contact the Commission office.


Commission Chairman William Colton was joined by Assemblymembers Thomas DiNapoli, Richard Brodsky, David Koon, Alexander Grannis and Steven Englebright in strongly criticizing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed regulatory changes to the New Source Program. Testimony was submitted on March 31, 2003 at the public hearing in Albany, New York. The following is the text of their comments.

Chairman Colton participating in the Ways and Means Committee Budget Hearing for the Dept. of Environmental Conservation.

The New Source Review (NSR) has been a critical element of the Clean Air Act since 1970. NSR requires all major new industrial facilities and existing facilities that undergo a modification beyond routine repairs or maintenance to install state-of-the-art pollution controls. The weakening of NSR regulations would have a direct impact on the public health and the environment of downwind states including New York.

New York State has taken significant measures to reduce air emissions that cause acid precipitation (SOx and NOx). Acid rain has had a devastating impact on New York’s natural resources including the lakes and forest resources of the Adirondack and Catskill Mountains and the Hudson Highlands. Additionally, New York State and other northeastern states were early participants in EPA’s Acid Rain Program, which set standards and a compliance schedule for reducing fuel combustion pollutants. New York State recently adopted new regulations that require electric generating facilities to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions an additional 50 percent below levels allowed under the Clean Air Act, and NOx reductions during the summer. However, these efforts continue to be undermined by the pollution imports from coal burning power plants in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states. NSR, properly implemented and enforced, gave New York State a chance to restore its natural resources and protect the health of its residents.

New York, as a member of the Regional Ozone Compact, has also implemented measures to reduce health-impairing ozone levels by limiting emissions of contributing compounds. New York has established regulations aimed at reducing hazardous air pollutants from fuel combustion, including fine particulate matter (PM) and heavy metals including mercury and lead.

EPA has now proposed changes for routine maintenance, repair or replacement (RMRR) for industrial facilities, including power plants, oil refining facilities, chemical manufacturers, natural gas pipelines, paper and pulp mills and automobile manufacturers. The new definition of RMRR would allow equipment replacement without upgrading pollution controls if the action does not involve installation of an entirely new unit or process. EPA’s rationale for this NSR change for affected facilities is that power plants might have to spend more than $100 million to meet NSR upgrades and therefore might ignore the need for maintenance or repair to avoid such expenses. According to EPA, this could lead to a deterioration of energy efficiency and capacity.


Our major concerns with the proposed RMRR changes are as follows:

  • The range of facilities to which the proposed NSR exemptions would apply under the new RMRR definition is extensive, including coal-fired power plants. These plants would be allowed to continue to operate at current polluting levels. Many of these plants have not done significant emissions upgrades in the past ten years, even though they had been targeted for improved performance. The new RMRR definition would allow these plants to continue as in the past, because there is no requirement that the facilities considered eligible for exemption from NSR review actually reduce their annual emissions. In effect, the proposed change in RMRR would lead to enshrinement of current emissions levels and would provide little incentive for these facilities to reduce their emissions.
  • Under the proposed modification of RMRR, most if not all process units at eligible facilities would be excluded from NSR review. For instance, boilers, burners, turbines and generators at the affected facilities are defined as process units. These process units should be categorized as emissions units. The rule should not create an artificial distinction between "emitting" and "non-emitting" units.

Mercury Control

EPA has stated that the NSR reforms would have the indirect benefit of reducing mercury levels. The issue is how much mercury would be reduced under the NSR changes. As result of the Clean Air Act, NOx, SOx, and particulate matter have shown significant reductions since 1988. However, the plants responsible for most mercury emissions include coal-fired power plants, waste incinerators, large industrial facilities and steel mills. Coal-fired power plants alone are responsible for about 33% of mercury emission. The issue for coal-fired power plants is whether the inclusion of mercury for indirect rather than direct control under the NRS reforms will actually bring about the mercury reduction.

In New York State, waste-to-energy facilities have had significant mercury reductions with selective catalytic reduction or activated carbon injection equipment use, along with particulate scrubbers and baghouse. These emission controls have been lauded by the EPA. If the NSR does not require specific reduction in mercury through routine changes (RMRR), there will be little or no mercury reduction. Unless regulations (or multi-pollutant legislation as proposed in New York State – A5933) require mercury control, the necessary reductions in mercury for reducing public health risks are not likely to be met.


Scientific research has established a clear link between power plant air emissions and human health impacts, including exacerbation of symptoms for asthma sufferers, increased risk of heart attacks for those with heart disease, causation of lung cancer and premature death. The bottom line is that these proposed changes will allow the dirtiest power plants to continue to operate without installing new pollution controls. The true cost will be felt here in New York and throughout the Northeast. This is unacceptable. We urge EPA to reject these proposed regulations.

Where Will the Garbage Go? 2002
Report Scheduled for Release

The Legislative Commission on Solid Waste Management is completing the next edition of Where Will the Garbage Go? - 2002, the annual report containing information on solid waste management activities in New York State. The data for the reports is collected from solid waste managers across the State and the Department of Environmental Conservation on the quantity and nature of materials being 1) recycled, 2) burned at waste-to-energy facilities, 3) going into landfills, and 4) being exported for disposal. Concerns and issues for solid waste management in New York State are also identified and discussed in the report.

This year, the Commission has utilized an electronic data collection process to facilitate and encourage timely responses from reporting agencies. The Commission anticipates that this new system and other enhancements will result in earlier release of future reports.

DEC Proposes a New Policy to Control PM 2.5

photo The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has proposed a new policy to provide guidance on the project-specific assessment of fine particulate matter and mitigation of these impacts when necessary. DEC is currently in the process of validating and reviewing the requisite ambient air quality monitoring data to establish which areas in the state are in compliance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) final revised National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for fine particulate matter (PM2.5 - particulate matter at or below 2.5 microns in size). Until DEC proposes a State Implementation Plan (SIP) to address compliance with the new PM 2.5, the agency will use this policy to address impacts of fine particulate matter.

Primary PM2.5 can come from combustion of fuels, fires, dust, refining, agriculture, salt and other sources. However, SOx and NOx from combustion of fuels can combine with liquid and solid particles in the air to form secondary PM2.5 particulates. Both types of particulates can be deeply inhaled. Secondary PM2.5 is of particular concern to health authorities because it can contain acidic sulfates, ammonia and hazardous compounds, deep respiration of which have been linked to inflammation, asthma, lung tissue impairment and disease, cardiovascular ailments, and premature death. Risks increase for the elderly, children, and those in poor health.

PM2.5 sources in NYS include coal-fired power plants, smelters, biomass facilities, and transportation. Long-range transport of secondary PM2.5 also enables movement of SOx and NOx-related compounds implicated in acid rain impacts.

The Commission submitted comments on the proposed policy. Some of the Commission concerns and recommendations necessary to assess and mitigate the impacts of PM2.5 are:

  • The need to integrate other pollutants, including SOx, NOx, ammonia, and VOCs into the statewide PM2.5 SIP. This approach will provide more comprehensive public health benefits and afford greater protection for NYS resources.
  • The need to target not only stationary urban sources, regardless of location and capacity, but address mobile PM2.5 sources as well.
  • The need to evaluate and target smaller, diffuse or dispersed sources of PM2.5 pollution to account for all sources statewide. The capacity of this toxic pollutant for long-range dispersion away from cities and its potential for adverse impacts on non-urban sources puts all citizens at risk.
  • The inadequacy of DEC’s rationale to use the existing PM10 (particulate matter at or below 10 microns in size) standard to determine future PM2.5 controls in order to maintain consistency with other air regulations. The nature of PM - increasing toxicity as particles get finer - suggests that using the PM10 standard for NYS emissions sources as a surrogate for PM2.5, will be of limited value in settling questions of risk to communities. A far greater priority should be the timely establishment and demonstrated achievement of the new PM2.5 standard.
  • The need to require project applicants to conduct cumulative impact modeling, particularly for urban areas, as a basis for assuring the public that likely additional impacts from very fine PM impacts have been addressed.
  • The use of the DEC-proposed PM10 policy as the threshold for "significant impact" virtually ensures that permits for new smaller gas-fired power plants or other small source emissions may receive less scrutiny than warranted.
  • The inadequacy of modeling which currently uses PM10 impacts from a new facility on the surrounding community to reflect PM2.5 impacts. Models will need to be modified to more accurately reflect the characteristics and risks associated with emissions of very small toxic particles.
  • The importance of developing a SIP that reflects suitable technology for achieving acceptable PM2.5 control from both stationary and mobile sources is critical as a basis for strong policy. The SIP should drive technology development - technology should not define the final SIP. Additional equipment or procedures needed for PM2.5 control will emerge if the policy so requires.
  • The need to 1) require routine cumulative impact assessment for new emissions sources, 2) maintain monitoring stations across the state, and (3) maintain the most accurate PM2.5 databases and maps to evaluate PM2.5 impacts.


photo In the waning hours of the session, the Assembly passed a comprehensive bill defining the requirements for remediation of "brownfield" sites and refinancing the current State Superfund program. This bill was the culmination of many hours of discussion and negotiation between the Assembly, the Senate and the Governor’s office, and represented a three-way agreement between these parties. The bill is expected to be acted upon by the Senate when they return in September. Details of the legislation are available from the Commission office.

recycling arrow To further our efforts to reduce waste, please inform us if you have a change in address by calling us at (518) 455-3711, fax at (518) 455-3837 or write us at:
The LCSWM, 4 Empire State Plaza, 5th Floor, Albany, NY 12248

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