But it was cold last winter: Watchdog Report

But it was cold last winter

That’s the argument new Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan of Long Island gave to the Capitol Pressroom explaining why he doesn’t believe in climate change.

Suffice to say, a lot has been happening recently in Albany, and environmental issues have been front and center.

Since our last Watchdog Report, the leadership of the state Senate has changed hands following the resignation of Senator Dean Skelos, who stands accused by the U.S. Attorney of using his position to enrich his family. 

The legal complaint against Senator Skelos alleges that conversations took place between the senator and his son on how to benefit financially from the devastation our communities have faced due to climate change, as well as fracking if the state had approved it. The allegations against the senator reflect all the hallmarks of a climate profiteer and, if true, provide disturbing insight into what we're up against in Albany.

Senator Flanagan’s remarks on climate change came less than 24 hours after his ascension to a position which makes him one of the storied “three men in a room” who make all the legislative and budget decisions for our state. 

Yesterday, we joined Superstorm Sandy survivors to deliver climate science to Senator Flanagan’s office. The delivery followed an important public forum on the need for climate action hosted by Senator Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), at which New Yorkers who have lost their homes joined scientists and advocates in calling for a statewide climate action plan. We're forcing this conversation, and at the panel one scientist succinctly explained why deniers are wrong to believe that a cold winter disproves climate change:

Give them a vote

Senator Flanagan knows the public’s confidence has been shaken to the core by legislators who are making policy decisions based on whether their family or campaign contributors profit. He can prove he is different from Dean Skelos by allowing simple up or down votes on the five pieces of legislation that Environmental Advocates has identified as having more cosponsors than votes needed for passage. It takes 32 votes to get a bill through the Senate, yet legislation that protects New Yorkers from fracking waste, bans the use of tiny plastic microbeads in hygiene products, and protects children from products made with notorious toxic chemicals like arsenic and lead are all stalled despite having more than 32 cosponsors.

Last week, we stood with our partners from Clean and Healthy New York, Riverkeeper, NYPIRG, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Citizen Action, Long Island Pine Barrens Society, and Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter urging Senator Flanagan to walk the talk and prove his chamber cares more about people than political contributors by allowing a vote on these five bills this session. Check out our release

Tar Sands on the Hudson

A Capital New York story broke this week that says the Cuomo Administration has been briefing Albany-area public officials about plans to approve Big Oil’s heating facility at the Port of Albany. If true, this means that all of the risks our communities statewide have taken on due to industry greed is just a drop in the bucket, that the DEC refuses to consider the statewide environmental impacts of this proposal, and that Canadian Tar Sands will soon be shipped on the Hudson River on its way to the global market. The decision would be disastrous for our climate – this is the governor’s “keystone moment.”

The Times Union is also reporting that the EPA has raised serious objections to these plans. Many of our advocates will recall that a similar scenario played out when the Governor attempted to raid clean water funds for the Tappan Zee bridge replacement (more on that below).

We’ll continue to gather more information and work feverishly to keep Governor Cuomo, DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens, and local officials from making such a terrible decision for our environment and public health. In the meantime you can call Governor Cuomo’s office at 518-474-8390 to register your opposition to the Port of Albany oil boiling facility and any other decision that will open New York’s doors to Tar Sands oil!

Cuomo’s clean water raid is dead

Last summer, Environmental Advocates sounded the alarm when Governor Cuomo sought to raid more than half a billion dollars dedicated for drinking and sewer infrastructure projects to instead help pay for construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge. This action could have had far-reaching negative consequences and undermined the entire Clean Water Act. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rejected most of the proposal – a decision which the Cuomo Administration appealed. Last week it was announced that after a year of advocacy and thousands of comments to state and federal officials, the Governor dropped his appeal! We applaud the EPA for undertaking a very thorough and comprehensive review of this proposal, and for working with the Cuomo Administration on an agreement that will protect clean water funds. Now the state can focus on the task at hand: expediting efforts to move the funds out the door so that communities can get down to work fixing their pipes.

We give a special shout-out to our great partners who helped make this win possible, including Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, Reinvent Albany, Riverkeeper, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, NYPIRG and others!

Basis for fracking ban released

With the release of the updated document which outlines the rationale for the state’s fracking ban, we’re closing in on getting this win into the history books! The document, formally known as the final SGEIS (which is thousands of pages long) delves into the potential environmental and public health impacts of fracking, ranging from air and water pollution to earthquakes. Our staff is digging through the details now to ensure that everything is as expected. We know there is a lot of work left to do, particularly when it comes to also banning other states’ fracking waste. Check out our recent report, License to Dump, to learn more about the next phase of this campaign!

We have a winner!

New York’s environment rocks. And our state is home to some of the most incredible parks and waterways in the world. As part of our Earth Month in April we wanted to say thanks for all of your advocacy, so we held a contest for a one year pass to all state parks and recreational sites. Let us congratulate Gail from Centerport for being selected the winner! We will be holding a new giveaway soon, so stay tuned.