I am pleased to report that we were able to accomplish a number of important environmental goals this year. Funding of the Environmental Protection Fund reached a historically high level, and consensus was reached on necessary changes to the Brownfields Cleanup Program, helping to ensure greater participation and cleaner clean-ups of contaminated sites. In addition, the Great Lakes Compact was enacted in all eight of the Great Lakes States, ratified by Congress and signed by the President.
The Water Commission will continue to be involved in a wide and varied agenda of water-related issues in the coming year. Drinking water, stormwater, climate change, and invasive species are among the issues we will continue to work on. As always, I welcome hearing your ideas and concerns. Please do not hesitate to contact me.
Assemblyman Bob Sweeney
n the final days of the 2008 Legislative Session, consensus was reached on reforms to the State Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP) to help streamline the program and provide increased transparency (Chapter 390 of 2008, Sweeney).
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver
The reforms will allow better targeting of incentives for the cleanup and redevelopment of contaminated sites, making it an important step forward for improving the environment and economy of New York State. The resulting clean ups will encourage new investment and redevelopment, and invigorate local economies.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver recognized this measure as “an important step in achieving economic revitalization in communities throughout New York.” Program changes include: modifications to the tax credits’; the transfer of the Brownfields Opportunity Area program to the Department of State; the creation of a Brownfields Advisory Board; an annual Brownfields Credit report, and a Brownfields Cleanup Program Report. Together, the new provisions will help to make the program more accountable and more transparent and help promote better cleanups that result in improved communities.
he New York State Assembly has begun examining issues related to wastewater infrastructure. In last year’s State Budget, the Legislature provided the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) with $300,000 to examine the wastewater infrastructure funding needs of the state. DEC’s report, released in March 2008, identified a need of $36.2 billion over the next 20 years for the repair, replacement and updating of New York’s municipal wastewater infrastructure.
The New York State Budget included $15 million for the required 20 percent state match to the federal Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which provides low interest loans to municipalities for wastewater infrastructure projects. The state Budget also included a $2 million increase in the Water Quality Improvement Projects category of the State Environmental Protection Fund, for a total of $12 million.
Until recently the federal government was the primary source of funding for 90 percent of wastewater infrastructure. Today, federal funding sources have decreased by over 70 percent. In January 2008, Assemblyman Sweeney wrote to New York’s Congressional representatives, urging them to include funding to assist New York in making upgrades to its crumbling wastewater infrastructure, noting that New York currently faces a tremendous funding gap for critical water and wastewater infrastructure.
The letter to Congress was followed by an Assembly Resolution. On April 15th, as part of the Assembly’s Earth Day package, the New York State Assembly passed a Resolution to Congress (Resolution K1422) requesting increased funding for wastewater infrastructure. The resolution recognized that wastewater infrastructure is critical to ensuring public health and the environment, and that investments in wastewater infrastructure will protect the environment, create employment, provide a stimulus to the economy, and lay the groundwork for long term smart growth.
Assemblyman Sweeney is also working with the United States Congress to help secure greater funding from the federal government for infrastructure projects. The National Infrastructure Development Act (HR.3896), co-sponsored by Congressman Steve Israel (D-NY), would establish a National Infrastructure Development Corporation to facilitate investment in critical infrastructure including transportation and water infrastructure at the state level.
Future newsletter articles will continue to keep readers apprised of developments related to water and wastewater infrastructure funding.
n August, Assemblyman Sweeney held two hearings on important water quality issues facing New York State. The first hearing, held in Rockland County on August 6th examined drinking water quality issues, including water infrastructure funding needs and the need for increased federal financial support, as well as the continued availability of adequate supplies of fresh water, including desalination.
The second hearing was held in the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center at the Jones Beach State Park on August 13th and focused on the impacts of stormwater in New York State. Issues discussed at the hearing included beach closings, the municipal cost of stormwater infrastructure, the interrelationship between stormwater and drinking water, and the need for increased federal financial support.
he Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact (A.7266-B, Sweeney) was signed into law in New York State in March 2008. The Compact legislation was enacted subsequently in all eight of the Great Lakes States. The Compact was ratified by Congress and signed into law by the President. The Compact is the result of a multi-year international effort to create enforceable guidelines for protecting the waters of the Great Lakes Basin. Upon ratification by Congress, the Compact became the first enforceable, uniform water management regime to be enacted throughout the Great Lakes Basin.
The Great Lakes Basin is composed of five of the largest freshwater lakes in the world. The Great Lakes and their bays and tributaries contain 20 percent of the world’s supply of freshwater and 95 percent of North America’s supply of surface freshwater. The Great Lakes represent an invaluable natural resource for the people living within and along the Basin boundaries. Approximately 80 percent of New York’s fresh surface water and over 700 miles of New York’s shoreline are within the drainage basins of Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, and the St. Lawrence River.
Although the Great Lakes are large, they are also vulnerable. Only a small percentage of the waters of the basin are recharged annually, and the Great Lakes are susceptible to the effects of increased demands from municipalities and industries and changes in water recharge patterns including rain, runoff, and snowmelt. The Great Lakes Compact is an effort to manage and sustain these valuable resources so that their economic, ecological and social benefits can be enjoyed by future generations.
The Compact agreements can be viewed online on the website of the Council of Great Lakes Governors at: http://www.cglg.org/projects/water/CompactImplementation.asp
ecent tests of drinking water have found evidence of trace amounts of pharmaceutical products. Scientific studies to determine the extent and effects of the pharmaceuticals are ongoing. In an effort to prevent the addition of further pharmaceuticals to the water supply, the Assembly passed legislation (A.840), which was signed into law by the Governor as Chapter 625 of the Laws of 2008. The new law requires DEC in consultation with the Department of Health, to develop and implement a public information program regarding the correct disposal techniques for prescription and non-prescription drugs. DEC, in consultation with the Department of Education, is responsible for developing a notice that would be conspicuously displayed in pharmacies and other retail business authorized to sell drugs. In addition, the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation, in consultation with Commissioner of the Department of Health, are authorized to establish a demonstration program to determine the most effective drug disposal method.
any of us have taken advantage of the convenience of bottled water. What you might not have considered is the cost. According to Business Week (June 2008), bottled water is more than three times as expensive as gasoline—$12 per gallon. On the other hand, New York City tap water is estimated to cost approximately 49 cents per year for 8 glasses of tap water per day. City officials estimate that an equivalent amount of bottled water would cost roughly $1400/year – an increase of 2,900 times.
Bottled water is expensive. While the water contained in water bottles does undergo testing for contaminants, such testing occurs less often than most municipal water supplies.
The environmental impacts of bottled water include:
In New York only 20 percent of plastic bottles purchased are recycled;
Massive amounts of greenhouse gases are produced in the plastic bottle manufacturing process, further contributing to global warming;
The energy required to make water bottles in the United States is equivalent to 17 million barrels of oil annually. In New York, that translates to 66 million gallons of gasoline - enough to power 120,000 automobiles for a year. (NYSDEC website);
Millions of gallons of fuel are used each day transporting bottled water long distances, sometimes around the world; and,
It requires 3 times as much water to make the bottle as it does to fill it (the Pacific Institute).
lean glass or stainless steel bottles that are filled at home are one alternative to individually packaged containers of water or other beverages. An important step to eliminate much of the waste associated with bottled water will be to reduce the public perception of bottled water as “better” than tap water. Municipalities and even the Federal government are moving to fill this information gap. New York City has initiated an advertising campaign that stresses the safety and cost effectiveness of city tap water, and New York City officials have announced they will stop buying bottled water for City Council events and city functions.
The NYS Assembly has moved to take the water bottles out of the waste stream by including them in the scope of the Bigger Better Bottle Bill. This legislation (A.8044-A), would make water bottles and other non-carbonated beverage containers subject to bottle depositsand the recycling stream. This bill passed the Assembly in 2008, but has not yet passed the Senate.
The New York State Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee will continue its efforts to reduce the use and disposal of individual water bottles in New York State.
n 2006, Congress passed legislation re-authorizing the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The federal law requires the creation of a National Saltwater Angler Registry for recreational saltwater fishermen. As a part of this registry, individuals would be required to provide identification, contact information (phone numbers and address), and the regions of the country they plan to fish in the coming year so that an angler survey could be conducted. The federal law includes an exemption from the registry requirement, if the state in which the angler resides has its own federally-approved Saltwater Anglers Licensing Program.
The Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee held a hearing on April 17, 2008, at Farmingdale State College, to determine what, if any, actions the State would be required to take to meet the standards in the federal law, in light of New York’s long-standing tradition to allow saltwater anglers to fish without a license. Testimony was presented by representatives from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
As a result of the information provided at the hearing, and the lack of published federal regulations, no legislation was advanced to authorize the DEC to adopt a state registry or licensing program for saltwater anglers. While the goals of protecting and managing saltwater fish populations are important, the method to accomplish these goals needs further consideration. In the absence of a state law requiring saltwater fishing licenses or registration, individuals in New York will be subject to the requirements of the federal program when it is implemented.
Changes in weather patterns, water levels, and the environment are already being felt, and will continue to impact our state’s industries, infrastructure and economy.
The New York State Assembly has been pursuing a wide range of efforts to help mitigate the potentially harmful effects of climate change. These efforts include legislation to cap greenhouse gas emissions, support greater energy efficiencies and encourage the development of alternative, cleaner energies.
Authorizes DEC to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, including setting goals for reduction of emissions, annually reporting emissions amounts, and recording the progress of entities and their efforts at reducing emissions. Passed Assembly only.
Dedicates funds raised from the sale of emissions allowances to support the development of clean, renewable sources of energy and other programs to advance the state’s air quality goals. Passed Assembly only.
Creates a climate change solutions fund to receive the proceeds of emission allowance auctions. Passed Assembly only.
Requires the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to establish a method for residents and businesses to calculate their greenhouse emissions and also requires DEC to develop recommendations on how state agencies can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Passed Assembly only.
Creates the New York State Lighting Toxics Reduction Act to create a recycling program for lights containing hazardous substances. Passed Assembly only.
Establishes the Greenhouse Gas Management Research and Development Program to provide grants to research new technologies to avoid, abate, mitigate, capture and/or sequester carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Vetoed by the Governor, Veto Memo 142.
Included in the State Fiscal Year, 2008-09 Budget, this provision will provide a tax credit of up to 20 cents per gallon for bioheat used for residential space heating or hot water production.
Through these and other initiatives, the New York State Assembly will continue to seek ways to help our State and its residents adapt to changes in the environment and the economy resulting from climate change.
Despite a very challenging budget year, funding for environmental programs in New York State continues to be a priority. The New York State budget for State Fiscal Year 2008-09 provides almost $1.2 billion in funding for the environment. The Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), which is a dedicated source of funding for a variety of key environmental programs throughout the State, received a record $255 million in this year’s State Budget; including $63 million for the following water-related projects:
$27.3 million for waterfront revitalization projects;
$12 million for wastewater treatment projects;
$6.5 million for Hudson River estuary management;
$5 million for Ocean and Great Lakes’ programs;
$5 million for invasive species;
$3 million for soil and water conservation districts;
$2.3 million for the Finger Lakes – Lake Ontario Watershed;
$1.5 million for Hudson River; and,
$1 million for Hudson River Park.
To further our efforts to reduce waste, please inform us if you have a change in address by calling us at (518) 455-3711, faxing us at (518) 455-3837, or writing us at 4 Empire State Plaza, 5th Floor • Albany, NY 12248.