EDITORIAL: Lawmakers go all in on environment

Legislatures make use of unusual summer session to reinforce environmental protections
State Capitol Building in Albany.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
State Capitol Building in Albany.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

Maybe it’s the green grass and sunshine of summer that’s got them in the mood to make everything green.

New York state lawmakers – working in a rare, election-year summer session after an unanticipated break due to the covid crisis – have passed a number of bills in a few short days that will improve the state’s environment.

The faster the governor signs them, the better off our water, our land and our collective public health will be.

Among the legislation being sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his signature are bills to protect Adirondack waterways from winter road salt, one that outlaws PFAS chemicals in food packaging, one that prohibits weed killers that contain  a suspected carcinogen from being used on state land, another that will reduce food waste and save landfill space by requiring supermarkets to enter agreements to donate unsold food, and even one that ensures the availability of parking spaces for electric cars. 

None of these bills will protect the entire environment on their own.

What’s important about these bills is that they recognize the threat to the environment from a variety of sources.

In effect, these bills are stepping stones to other legislation.

For instance, the environmental group, Environmental Advocates NY, labeled as “beneficial” a bill banning the use of the chemical trichloroethylene (TCE) for use as a vapor degreaser and solvent. But the group said lawmakers could go further by banning the known carcinogen for use in consumer products, such as spray adhesives, glues and spot-cleaners used by dry cleaners.

In some cases, lawmakers stepped in to protect New York’s environment from the weakening of federal environmental regulations by the Trump administration.

For example, one bill passed by lawmakers adds Class C streams —those that support fisheries and feed larger bodies of water – in the list of state-protected waterways. Last year, the Trump administration significantly rolled back protections for New York waterways.

It’s up to state lawmakers to protect New Yorkers by reinstituting and reinforcing those protections.

Even hampered by the covid crisis, state lawmakers have been busy this legislative session.

Now that they’ve turned their attention to the environment, let’s hope they keep it up.

Summer’s not over yet.

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