Watchdog Report: February 18, 2016

10 NY Critters to Love

We took a little break from all of our policy work to give some attention to the critters that benefit from what we accomplish on clean water, air, and more. Some are cute, others not so much. Some have interesting backstories, and others you may be shocked to learn call New York State home. They are all important to our ecosystem and help tell the story of why environmental protections matter. We hope that you too have time for a break to enjoy our new blog, 10 NY Critters to Love.

Deadline on Clean Air Comments

Earlier this week, we told you about the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) positive proposal to curtail air pollution from “distributed generation” sources – the types of generators you see on apartment buildings, at industrial sites, etc. Currently, they emit significant air pollution, undermine public health, and trigger a host of health issues, such as asthma attacks and heart disease, not just on-site but throughout neighboring communities. Industry is trying to block the plan or, at the very least, carve out loopholes that undermine it. Today is your last chance to comment: please tell them that you want clean air and healthy communities!

You can also view our official testimony online!

Capital Region and NYC Events

Albany: Environmental Advocates is cosponsoring a speech by renowned climate and sustainable business leader, Hunter Lovins, titled “After Paris, the World Needs New York to Lead.” The February 23 event is organized with SUNY Albany and the Bard Graduate Programs in Sustainability. Lovins, a Bard faculty member and the president of Natural Capitalism Solutions, will talk about how following the Paris climate agreement, New York State can be the global leader on climate action. She will also discuss the intersection between cutting carbon pollution, developing clean renewable technology, and a growing economy. View the flyer for more information.

NYC: On February 25, Senator Brad Hoylman is presenting a talk titled, “Bag the Plastic: The Impact of Plastic Bags on our Environment.” Though this is not an Environmental Advocates event, #BanTheBag is an issue very important to our members; last fall, hundreds of advocates contacted Governor Cuomo and state legislators urging a ban on single-use plastic bags. This conversation will take place at NYU and feature Jennie Romer, an attorney and founder of Details are available online.

Where Things Stand

There is so much happening on the environmental front right now that it can be difficult to keep track of where things stand. We work hard to keep you in the loop on what’s happening within government, as well as to ensure that if there is an issue you’re interested in, you know the outcome. Here are some briefs:
Seneca White Deer: Hundreds of people took action urging Seneca County supervisors to protect the old Army depot that has become a habitat for this herd with a rare genetic defect. Unfortunately, the supervisors failed to support the effort. However, just last night we learned that Varick town officials are working with a local nonprofit in hopes of preserving more than 3,000 acres of the site. Updates can be tracked online.
#FixOurPipes: A few weeks ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued their Clean Watersheds Needs Survey, which states that New York has the largest need for clean water infrastructure investment in the nation. We know the need is enormous, as the acting commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) told legislators at a recent budget hearing that the first round of drinking and wastewater infrastructure grants that we secured in the last budget process covered a mere fraction of the community requests submitted. Our efforts continue to secure $800 million annually within the budget to #FixOurPipes.

Hoosick Falls Water Contamination: Residents of this Capital Region community may be getting sick because a man-made chemical – perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) – is in their drinking water. PFOA is a carcinogen used to make Teflon, which lives indefinitely in the environment. 

According to the American Cancer Society,“studies in humans have found that people with workplace exposure to PFOA have higher risks of bladder and kidney cancers.” In recent weeks, the DEC has named Hoosick Falls a SuperFund site, which makes it eligible for financial support in creating a new, healthy water source.

State Senator Kathy Marchione, who represents the community, has been a proponent of rolling back state regulations that protect public health. However, one local paper has effectively pointed out that contamination like this occurs due to a lack of oversight, not because there is too much. Senator Marchione appears to be changing her tune on the value of public health protections, and in a recent Capitol Pressroom interview openly affirmed the need to overhaul New York’s outdated chemical regulatory practices. More to come!