As the legislative session drew to a close in Albany last week, some environmental advocates said that elected officials had squandered key opportunities.
“It is truly disappointing that the Legislature could not reach consensus on efforts to get toxic chemicals out of children’s toys and products. It is hard to imagine a more fundamental responsibility for our elected officials than protecting children’s health,” said Marcia Bystryn, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters in a statement.
According to the NYLCV, inaction on the Child Safe Products Act was “the worst environmental disappointment of the year.”
Children in New York State are at risk of exposure to more than 80,000 synthetic chemicals, says the group.
The Child Safe Products Act would have required New York State to:
- Identify chemicals of high concern;
- Create a priority list of chemicals of high concern found in children’s products;
- Require manufacturers to disclose the use of these priority chemicals in children’s products;
- Phase out the most dangerous chemicals in children’s toys products; and
- Calls on New York State to participate in an interstate chemicals clearinghouse (IC2).
The Act is modeled after legislation in other states including Maine and Washington. Despite it having 40 sponsors in the Senate, Republican Leader Dean Skelos ultimately did not advance the bill to the floor for a vote. The Assembly approved its version of the bill in March, the NYLCV said.
Funds—But No Reform—for Brownfield Cleanup Program
Legislators did approve an extension to the Brownfield Cleanup Program through March 31, 2017. Although this measure will keep the program functioning, “lawmakers did not enact necessary reforms to more effectively target the program’s tax credits,” argued the NYLCV.
The Cleanup Program offers financial incentives to developers to remediate toxic sites so that they can be used for housing and other activities. Brownfield tax credits, for instance, have helped to incentivize housing development in the area around the Gowanus Canal, a federal Superfund site.
According to The Journal News, the state’s Cleanup Program offers “lucrative tax breaks to developers…and is set to expire at the end of 2015. Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed extending the program for 10 years…but with a series of reforms meant to keep remediation credits limited to cleanup costs, not development.”
Lawmakers opted for a short-term extension because ”Cuomo and legislative leaders couldn’t come to an agreement,” said the Journal News.
Planning Ahead for Climate Change
Both the Assembly and Senate passed the Community Risk & Resiliency Act, which requires the state to “consider the effects of climate change and extreme weather events when allocating monies or issuing permits”. This legislation was approved by large margins in both houses, said the NYLCV.
The Assembly also passed another three-year moratorium on high-volume hydraulic fracturing throughout New York State. However, the Senate did not pass a similar bill. High-volume gas extraction is not currently permitted in New York pending a review by the state Department of Health.