In the News: climate change on the move, preparations in NYS, and another pipeline?

New York Rising program director gives update on resiliency efforts

Rubin said the state is embarking on a $17 billion strategy that will transform New York’s infrastructure, transportation networks, energy supply, coastal protection, weather warning system and emergency management to better protect New Yorkers from future extreme weather. [NYLCV]


With its namesake canal finally getting clean, Gowanus grows

But dirty waters or no, given the Brooklyn real estate boom and Gowanus’ choice location, it was only a matter of time before serious money moved in. And that time appears to be now, as a number of large developers are charging ahead with plans for the area. [New York Post]


USDA to open sites to help farmers, ranchers cope with climate change

“The Obama administration has selected the locations for seven new regional centers that will help farmers and ranchers adjust to the increasing risks and extreme weather associated with climate change…The…climate hubs will link local agriculture producers with universities, industry groups, state governments and federal agencies such as the Department of Interior and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. [Los Angeles Times]


Bloomberg Aims to Motivate World Leaders to Cut Greenhouse Gases

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg aims to use his new role as U.N. envoy on cities and climate change to help “frustrated” U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon motivate world leaders to cut greenhouse gas emissions by showing them progress made by large cities. [Huffington Post]


Watch 63 Years of Global Warming in 14 Seconds

Updated to include 2013, this iconic animation from our friends at NASA depicts how temperatures around the globe have warmed since 1950. [Climate Central]


Stay Tuned for the Weather

“I’m a huge fan of the work that Andy Revkin did for years at The New York Times,” Roberts, who left the Times for Mashable, said. “He was truly one of those real ground-breaking writers … he hasn’t been as active as he had been and I guess you could say there is a journalistic opportunity to step in and do some of the work he did for the Times.” [Capital New York]


A new proposal to ship fracked gas across New York

A proposed multi-billion dollar pipeline would ship natural gas fracked in other states across the Capital region of New York and into New England. The 250-mile Northeast Expansion pipeline would cross Albany, Rensselaer and Columbia counties before it enters Massachusetts… [Capital New York]


And a very interesting tool to look at the impact of climate change on New York and other cities across the globe…

Obama Announces Regional “Climate Hubs”

The Obama administration announced Wednesday the creation of seven regional “climate hubs” designed to help farmers, ranchers, and rural communities combat the effects of climate change, including drought, floods, pests, and fires.

New York State will be serviced by the Northeast Hub, stationed in Durham, New Hampshire.

The move is one of several executive actions that President Obama has said he will take on climate change without action from Congress.

According to an article by Think Progress:

…the centers will look into climate forecasting and data, risk assessment, and how to adapt farming and livestock practices to climate change and new forms of extreme weather. They’ll also serve as an information and coordination hub for their particular region, linking farmers and ranchers up with universities, government agencies, scientific research centers, and other groups in an effort to spread the best farming practices and the best climate adaptation strategies.
These hubs are intended to help the federal government synchronize its climate resources with what other entities, such as universities and state governments are doing to prepare for shifting weather patterns.

Response to this announcement has been mixed, primarily because designation as a hub comes with no new funding or resources; rather the centers will focus on “repackaging climate change information… in user-friendly ways and getting it into the hands of the people who need it most.”

Hubs will be located in USDA facilities and will network with on-the-ground public, academic, and private sector organizations, researchers, and outreach specialists in order to disseminate information and guidance on technologies and risk management practices at regional and local scales.

How does this move fit into the President’s larger climate agenda? The New York times analyzes it this way:

In substance, the creation of the climate hubs is a limited step, but it is part of a broader campaign by the administration to advance climate policy wherever possible with executive authority. The action is also part of a push to build political support for the administration’s more divisive moves on climate change — in particular, the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations on coal-fired power plants.

Hubs will be located in Ames, Iowa; Corvallis, Oregon; Durham, New Hampshire; El Reno, Oklahoma; Fort Collins, Colorado; Las Cruces, New Mexico; and Raleigh, North Carolina.

Image credit: USDA

Hudson Valley “Farm Hub” To Preserve Land, Educate Young Farmers

An innovative Hudson Valley project may soon have a storied parcel of farmland producing new farmers in addition to fruits and vegetables.

At the end of December 2013, the NoVo Foundation—run by Warren Buffett’s son Peter and his wife Jennifer—announced that it had purchased Gill Farm, a 75-year-old family-run vegetable operation covering more than 1,200 acres, for $13 million.

The Foundation intends to eventually transfer the property to an independent nonprofit organization that will operate it as a “farm hub”—a center dedicated to sustainable agriculture, farmer training, and related services.

Stemming the Tide of Development

Located just 100 miles from New York City in the town of Hurley, the Hudson Valley Farm Hub aims to become a regional farming center for sustainable agriculture by offering training and other services, all with the goal of preserving valuable farmland and educating a new generation of growers.

The need for such a project is great: The American Farmland Trust figures show that New York has been losing farmland at a rate equivalent to one farm every 3½ days. In fact, the Hudson Valley’s core counties—Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester—lost more than 10,000 farms and more than one million farm acres between 1950 and 2007, according to federal statistics.

The new Farm Hub will offer beginning and established farmers a range of resources, including:

  • Hands-on training in sustainable farming practices to meet modern-day challenges;
  • Marketing assistance to help grow their businesses;
  • Information on cutting-edge practices and technologies that promote resilient agriculture;
  • Assistance with secure and affordable access to land; and
  • Expanded access to capital to establish and expand their farming operations.

A central part of the program will be the creation of “incubator farms,” plots ranging from three to 20 acres to be worked by new farmers without the pressures of finding and investing in affordable land.

Making the Transition

While excitement for the project, which could eventually be the largest incubator project in the country, is running high, there are lingering concerns among Hudson Valley residents about its scale and impact.

While the Hub aims to eventually turn out new local farmers and business owners, there will be some immediate job losses—up to 100 migrant workers who found employment at Gill Farm will be displaced by this transition.

Other established farmers have expressed concern about changes to the grower community created by an influx of young farmers, and the ability for existing growers to compete with a flood of “foundation-supported” vegetables.

Bob Dandrew, a representative for the project, tried to address some of these concerns at a December press conference. “We know in New York City alone, there is unmet demand for local food of more than $1 billion a year. I’m convinced if we do it right, we can help our farmers get access to that market and make really great things happen, ” said Dandrew. Assistance in developing a cohesive marketing strategy will be part of the incubator process.

It also helps that John Gill, the farm’s current owner and life-long Ulster County resident, will be involved in the transition of the property from private farm to education and research center and will remain in the position of Farm Manager.

“It’s always been important to me that our farm remains a working farm – this way I can preserve my grandfather’s and my father’s legacy,” said Gill at the press event.  “I’m really happy that I’ll be involved in the next chapter, and to know that the farm will always remain viable and help prepare future generations of farmers.”

Master planning for the new Farm Hub will begin in early 2014 and programs are slated to begin operations on-site by the spring of 2015.

Is There Any Budget Relief in Sight for State’s Lead Environmental Agency?

Now that state budget negotiations are in full force, the issue of resources for the Department of Environmental Conservation is back at the forefront.

Is the DEC fully equipped to protect our natural environment and residents from pollution, climate change and other threats? This question has been raised repeatedly by environmental groups and state legislators during the last few years, and now that the economic picture for the state is showing some improvement, the issue has more potency.

So far, the Governor’s proposed budget this year “raises questions about DEC’s ability to do its job with increasingly limited resources” stated the New York League of Conservation Voters recently on its website.

The DEC, whose mission is “to conserve, improve and protect New York’s natural resources and environment and to prevent, abate and control water, land and air pollution,” has lost approximately 800 staff members since 2008. The agency now has 2,700 full-time employees throughout the state.

“These are very substantial reductions,” said state Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh (D) in an interview friday. “Oversight has diminished…I believe there is less enforcement activity. There’s a sense that the DEC is less able to respond if you’re not doing the right thing,” he added.

An Expansive Mandate

The DEC’s responsibilities include everything from monitoring and reducing air pollution to inspecting sewage treatment plants to the upkeep of state-owned hiking trails.

The agency enforces New York State’s environmental conservation laws. The DEC is also designated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency to enforce provisions of the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which apply to a reported 33,000 pollution sources statewide.

And the agency describes itself as “tackling urgent issues,” like the mounting impacts of climate change and the spread of invasive species.

Kavanagh, who represents the Upper East Side of Manhattan, leads the newly formed New York State Caucus of Environmental Legislators, which includes members of the state Assembly and Senate, both democrats and republicans. He said there was significant interest on the part of other caucus members in getting more resources to the DEC.

“We are early in the budget process- this is going to be an ongoing conversation,” Kavanagh said.

While funding for the DEC has remained relatively stable under the Cuomo administration, the Governor has not rebuilt the agency’s workforce, which was decimated after the economic downturn that began in 2007. The Governor’s proposed budget for 2014-15 includes funding for one new staff person.

The DEC has also lost $43 million in capital funding, which came from federal stimulus dollars and the 1996 Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act, according to Environmental Advocates, a non-profit group in Albany that monitors the agency.

The Governor’s office says that taking capital projects, staffing and operational expenses throughout the state into account, the DEC’s 2014-15 budget will stand at $1 billion.

Trying to Measure the Impact of Staff Cuts

How is the public supposed to understand the loss of 800 DEC employees since 2008? What sort of impact does the shrinking of an agency like the DEC have on environmental and public health?

Kavanagh and groups like Environmental Advocates stress that they believe DEC employees have made an enormous effort to continue the agency’s mandate, but Kavanagh notes, “something has to give…they’re trying to act efficiently [but] important objectives suffer.”

Kavanagh said that he feels the state’s oversight of hazardous waste has diminished because of staffing cuts. The DEC has disputed previous charges about insufficient monitoring of hazardous waste. He also pointed out that there are abandoned gas wells throughout New York that need to be safely capped. “This will happen more quickly or more slowly depending on resources,” he said.

A September, 2013 analysis of state data reported to the EPA found that the state’s “formal enforcement” of provisions related to the federal Clean Air, Clean Water and Resource Conservation Acts had “decreased by nearly 25% between 2009 and 2012.” Environmental Advocates, which authored the study, charged that inspections of polluting facilities overall dropped by 35% during the same period.

As an example, the group’s analysis cited data reported to federal authorities regarding “major” entities releasing effluent into the state’s waterways. “DEC inspections of Major discharging facilities fell dramatically between 2009 and 2012,” notes the report.

“Major,” according to Environmental Advocates, refers to large industrial facilities, energy producers, and wastewater treatment plants which discharge more than one million gallons per day, or that release “higher-risk” pollutants.

“Despite finding 76% percent of Major facilities were out of compliance with their permits…DEC inspections fell from a strong enforcement presence of 74% of major facilities inspected in 2009 to just 16% in 2012,” note the authors. This left “regulators blind to violations and the public vulnerable to illegal pollution.”

The DEC responded forcefully to Environmental Advocates’ report last fall. The agency issued a statement saying that the report “distorts key facts, omits others, and outright ignores this administration’s strong environmental record. It’s disappointing that even after DEC officials provided Environmental Advocates with correct data, they proceeded to publish inaccurate information.”

Katherine Nadeau, the policy director at Environmental Advocates, told New York Environment Report last week that “we are 100% solid in our data—it’s all public.”

“This administration thinks they can do this [enforce all existing laws] with the current level of resources,” noted Kavanagh. Indeed, the DEC has taken significant steps to manage enforcement in new ways with less manpower, including the establishment of a program in which environmental offenders can see penalties dropped in exchange for turning themselves in.

Is there an environmental crisis in the making? “There’s a broad range between catastrophe and an optimal level of funding,” Kavanagh observed.

More Resources for Other State Environmental Programs

The Cuomo administration has proposed a new appropriation of $100 million for the continuation of the State Superfund program, which focuses on “identifying, investigating and cleaning up sites where consequential amounts of hazardous waste may exist.”

An additional four million is to be added to the state’s Environmental Protection Fund, which is supported by the Real Estate Transfer Tax and underwrites a wide array of environmental projects throughout the state.

Environmental groups like the New York League of Conservation Voters had recommended a $200 million replenishment for the Environmental Protection Fund, which saw diminished contributions during the Great Recession.

“This year’s $4 million EPF increase stands in stark contrast to the massive investments the governor is proposing for technological upgrades,” blogged Dan Hendrick of the New York League of Conservation Voters.

The Fund has been utilized in counties throughout the state since 1993. Over $220 million have gone to projects in the five boroughs alone.

In the Bronx, the Fund has invested over $27 million in improvements for public parks, waterfront revitalization and water quality projects along the Hudson, Harlem and Bronx Rivers, and new recycling initiatives in the business community, according to the Friends of New York’s Environment.

Given the state’s somewhat improved fortunes, is there a real possibility that the legislature could push for an increase to the DEC’s budget this year?

“People who are concerned about these issues should be engaging…and view the [budget] hearings, said Kavanagh. “We know there are people on the other side of this who would prefer less enforcement,” he observed.

In the News: Why We Blog & an under-reported development in NYS decision on fracking

Journalists on the Environment Beat Look Ahead

How you head toward 9 billion people with the fewest regrets is not a news story. It’s an ongoing question. And anyone who says there’s a single answer is not being truthful. So the only form of journalism that really captures that well is an ongoing conversation, which is a blog… [Dot Earth blog]


Veil may be pulled from NY’s review of fracking in 2014: State has 45 days to begin releasing files on health review

Under the threat of a lawsuit by a citizens action group called Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association, Cuomo’s administration settled a case to release administrative documents, letters, and other records detailing the [state] Department of Health study that will determine the outcome of the governor’s decision to allow or ban fracking – whenever that decision might come. [Shale Gas Review]


Report: Parts of Brooklyn still reeling from Sandy

More than a year after Sandy, many [coastal] areas have not fully recovered and much still needs to be done to repair the damage and beef up Brooklyn’s resiliency for the next time. [Brooklyn Daily Eagle]


Is Poor Maintenance of Rooftop Water Tanks Endangering New York City’s High Quality Drinking Water?

An investigation by Times reporters Ray Rivera, Frank G. Runyeon and Russ Buettner has found muddy sediment and e-coli bacteria accumulated at the bottom of some water tanks that the Times recently sampled in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn. In addition, the Times reports, such water tanks may not have been cleaned or inspected for years, in apparent violation of the City’s health code. [NRDC blog]


Coney Island Garden Uprooted for Theater

The Boardwalk Community Garden, just steps from Coney Island’s beach, was a place where the neighborhood’s needy residents grew and reaped fresh produce for the dinner table for about 17 years. But before dawn on Dec. 28, bulldozers and backhoes rolled in and leveled the plot of land at West 22nd Street and the Boardwalk, destroying produce still waiting to be harvested. [The Wall Street Journal]


State confirms that no permits for natural gas drilling will be issued in 2014

“[State] Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens told legislators Wednesday that he has “absolutely no” plans to issue permits to drilling companies in 2014, clearing the way for Gov. Cuomo to run for reelection without having to deal with the controversial issue. [New York Daily News]


U.N. appoints former NYC Mayor Bloomberg cities, climate change envoy

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday appointed former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as his special envoy for cities and climate change, in a bid to build momentum ahead of a planned U.N. summit meeting in September. [Reuters]


Sneak Peek Avenue V Pump Station

Construction is nearly complete on an extensive, $200 million rehabilitation project at the century-old Avenue V Pumping Station in Gravesend, Brooklyn. When work is finished later this year, the Station will be able to pump 80 million gallons of wastewater a day to the Owl’s Head Wastewater Treatment Plant during wet weather…The upgrade will help reduce combined sewer overflows and improve water quality in Coney Island Creek. [NYC DEP Weekly Pipeline]


The Newtown Creek “Magic Lantern” Show

A photographer and blogger, Mitch has been wandering around the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens for several years. Documenting the rich history and environmental issues which plague the largely unknown 3.8 mile long waterway, found at the center of New York City and recently named to the Federal Superfund list, Mitch has visited its hidden corners and works to reveal its obscure story. [Brooklyn Brainery]

Christine Quinn: Most “Pro-Environment” Speaker in Council’s History

So says the New York League of Conservation Voters, which has just released its review of the New York City Council’s 2012-13 legislative performance on environmental and sustainability issues.

In their Environmental Scorecard, the League argues that:

“From sustainable food and clean energy, to green buildings and mass transit, she [Quinn] played a pivotal role in the transformation of New York City into the sustainability leader it is today. The sheer volume of environmental legislation adopted by the Council…reflect the high priority Quinn placed on sustainability.”

And the League says that Quinn not only worked with the Bloomberg administration “to advance its environmental agenda” but the Council “frequently initiated and approved legislation that was not a priority on the other side of City Hall.”

The scorecard highlights areas—Solid Waste and Recycling, Air Quality, Climate Change and Resiliency, Transportation, Food Access, and Green Buildings—where the NYLCV says the Council made major advances under Quinn’s leadership.

The League also looks at 17 pieces of key legislation passed last year, and ranks the environmental performance of each 2012-13 Council Member, including new speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

In the News: Latinos on Climate Change; Solar Advances in Brooklyn; and Europe Takes a Step Back?

23 Borough Homes Are Going Solar Thanks to Solarize Brooklyn

23 private homes in Kensington, Windsor Terrace, Park Slope, and Flatbush have been approved for solar panel installation. These homes will create 80 kilowatts of energy, covering 50-80% of those homes’ needs…The population of Brooklyn is growing rapidly; we’ve somehow managed to fit 60,000 more people into our borough since 2010. Our demand for electricity is growing with our population and our continued addiction to electronics. [Ditmas Park Corner]


Con Ed gets a post-Sandy reboot

More than a year after the city’s electric grid failed in superstorm Sandy, the utility giant Con Edison is on the verge of cementing a billion-dollar plan to upgrade its facilities to endure the projected future impacts of extreme weather, under an unusual agreement signed by the utility, city, environmentalists and consumer groups. [The New York World]


New City Council committee will keep an eye on funds earmarked for Hurricane Sandy relief

“This City Council is not only very committed to rebuilding areas devastated by Sandy but also dedicated to finding ways to make sure all five boroughs are more resilient in the face of climate change,” said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “The [Council’s] Recovery and Resiliency Committee will start by looking at why so many city Housing Authority buildings damaged by the storm are still using unreliable, temporary boilers.” [NY Daily News]


Europe, Facing Economic Pain, May Ease Climate Rules

“On Wednesday, the European Union proposed an end to binding national targets for renewable energy production after 2020. Instead, it substituted an overall European goal that is likely to be much harder to enforce. [The New York Times]


Latinos Want Strong Presidential Action to Combat Climate Change

“Of the issues we’ve polled, the only other national issue Latinos feel more intensely about is immigration reform,” said Matt Barreto, co-founder of Latino Decisions and associate professor of political science at the University of Washington. “Action on climate change is a very high priority for Latinos—regardless of age, income, party affiliation or where they live.” [NPR]


Upstate fracking is danger to city water supplies: mayor

Mayor de Blasio is jumping forcefully into the debate over fracking on upstate lands — calling it a danger to the city’s water supply…The comments are sure to put added pressure on Gov. Cuomo, who has refused to lift a statewide moratorium on fracking — which pumps a cocktail of chemicals underground in order to free up natural gas — pending a drawn-out environmental and health review. [NY Post]


And, from our neighbors to the northeast, a news source on the global transition to renewable sources of energy: The Green Energy Times

Legacy of Sandy Visible in Council’s Environmental Leadership

The New York City Council has a revamped Environmental Protection Committee with new leadership, and an entirely new committee that will focus on climate resiliency and rebuilding issues.

The leadership and makeup of the two committees were announced this week. Much of the Council’s new environmental leadership hails from New York City communities battered by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, like the Rockaways, South Brooklyn and South-East Queens, large sections of Manhattan’s waterfront, and the Eastern Shore of Staten Island.

Building on the Council’s Efforts to Address Climate Change

The Environmental Protection Committee was highly active under the leadership of outgoing Member James Gennaro, a trained geologist from Queens, who has now joined the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Gennaro will serve as the DEC’s Deputy Commissioner for New York City Sustainability and Resiliency.

During Gennaro’s tenure, the Council’s Environmental Protection Committee developed numerous pieces of legislation which helped to lock-in and expand Bloomberg-administration sustainability initiatives.

One of the Committee’s arguably greatest achievements during that period was crafting legislation that required the city to take the needs of its most vulnerable residents into account as it planned for climate change.

The Committee will now be chaired by Donovan Richards, who represents Far Rockaway, Laurelton, Springfield Gardens and Rosedale, Queens. Before joining the Council, Richards served as chief of staff for former Council Member James Sanders, Jr. Richards won Sanders’ seat in a special election last February.

Richards co-sponsored legislation last fall with Brad Lander and other Council Members to create a public online database tracking how federal Sandy relief funds are distributed and used. And, with local residents, he helped to lead a public tour last May of mold infested homes in the Rockaways to demand more immediate assistance for Sandy victims.

Richards has also called “for the Department of Environmental Protection to fund a $14 million dollar project in Rosedale’s Brookville Triangle to alleviate flooding.”

Connection to Past Leadership

Richards will be joined on the Environmental Protection Committee by:

  • Stephen Levin, who represents Brooklyn Heights, Greenpoint, parts of Williamsburg, Park Slope, and Boerum Hill, Brooklyn;
  • Costa Constantinides, who served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Council Member Gennaro and represents Astoria and parts of Long Island City, Woodside, East Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights, Queens;
  • Rory Lancman, who served as a state assembly member and will be representing Hillcrest, Queens; and
  • Eric Ulrich, who represents most of the Rockaways and several neighborhoods in South Queens.

Levin and Ulrich are incumbents; the rest of the Committee’s members are new to the Council.

Special Focus on Preparing for the Next Storm

The City Council has also created a Recovery and Resiliency Committee, which will be chaired by newly-elected Mark Treyger, representing Coney Island, Bensonhurst, Gravesend and Sea Gate, Brooklyn neighborhoods hard hit by Sandy.

Treyger’s Council biography states that before his election, he formed STRONG (Sandy Task-Force Recovery Organized by Neighborhood Groups) “to help spearhead the fight against the opening of a dangerous garbage station in Southwest Brooklyn and fight for federal recovery dollars to improve Coney Island and Sea Gate’s sewer system, beaches, and other vital infrastructure”.

Treyger will be joined on the Recovery and Resiliency Committee by Donovan Richards and Eric Ulrich, along with:

  • Incumbent Rosie Mendez, representing neighborhoods along the East River in Manhattan;
  • Incumbent Margaret Chin, representing Lower Manhattan;
  • Newly-elected Carlos Menchaca, representing Sunset Park and a section of the Brooklyn waterfront; and
  • Newcomer Steven Matteo, representing Staten Island’s “mid-Island” district.

Matteo served as chief of staff for outgoing Member James Oddo, who is now Staten Island’s borough president.

Matteo’s district includes communities such as New Dorp and Ocean Breeze, which suffered some of the greatest physical devastation and loss of life during Sandy.

After his appointment, Matteo, one of three Republicans on the Council, declared in a statement, “Sandy will be my number one priority. I am honored to be part of the team of Council Members that will look to make the City more resilient in the face of future storms.”

Mayor de Blasio Comes Out Against Fracking Across New York State

During a q & a session with reporters after giving remarks today at a plenary session of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made the following statement:

“My purview is the five boroughs of New York City and I try to work closely with the state government but I also appreciate that they have to make decisions on behalf of the whole state. The one thing I am firm about is that I don’t see any place for fracking. The science simply isn’t reliable enough. The technology isn’t reliable enough. And, there’s too much danger to our water supply, to our environment in general.

So my view is that there should be a moratorium on fracking in New York State until the day comes that we can actually prove it’s safe and I don’t think that day is coming any time soon.”

Update:

Bill de Blasio made similar statements while Public Advocate. In an August 27th, 2013 interview with blogger Eric Walton, de Blasio said the following:

“I believe strongly in the moratorium on fracking. I think it is abundantly clear that the technology is far from perfected. There are incredible dangers associated with fracking that could have a lasting impact on our water supply in particular, beyond just the city water shed, but anywhere it’s being done. And so I think the moratorium is necessary and I don’t think the moratorium should be lifted until these issues are resolved, if they are ever resolved.”

A Milestone for Food Metrics in New York

Soon, public school students, hospital patients, and even senior center residents in New York State could find locally grown fruits and vegetables on their daily menus, thanks to a new law passed by Governor Cuomo.

The Food Metrics Bill (S.4061/A.5102), sponsored by Sen. Patty Ritchie and Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, mandates that New York State agencies establish a robust tracking and reporting system for all the food they purchase.

The law requires successful bidders on state food contracts to provide the type, dollar value, and geographic origin of all their food to the procuring agency and also requires the Office of General Services and the Department of Agriculture and Markets to develop guidelines for state agencies on increasing their purchase of local foods.

“Eating local is a big trend right now—and it can mean big business for local farmers and food producers. This legislation builds upon that movement, seeking to use the purchasing power of state government to help farmers grow,” said Senator Ritchie.

This bill will provide New York State with valuable (and currently non-existent) baseline data about money being spent on food as well as the geographic source of such food, all with the aim of increasing the amount of local goods purchased by state agencies.

This information will also be shared with the state’s agricultural community, in hopes that farms may tap into the institutional food market by shifting production towards those items shown to be in demand.

Channeling this opportunity to local farms can reduce carbon emissions related to food production and transportation and help keep them profitable, protecting vulnerable farmland from development.

The New York League of Conservation Voters, which works to make environmental sustainability a top political and policy priority in New York State, named State Senator Patty Ritchie a 2013 “Eco-Star” for her work on The Food Metrics Bill.