A new report from Environmental Advocates NY highlights how despite significant gains in air quality over several decades, New York is at a tipping point due to budget cuts and years of level spending that risks increased exposure to air pollutants that undermine public health and shorten lives.
For Immediate Release: December 29, 2015
Clean Air Funding Cuts Result in 25% Decline in NY Air Monitors
34% Funding Drop; New Report Documents Progress Placed at Risk
Albany – A new report from Environmental Advocates NY highlights how despite significant gains in air quality over several decades, New York is at a tipping point due to budget cuts and years of level spending that risks increased exposure to air pollutants that undermine public health and shorten lives.
Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates NY said, “New York has been a leader on not only the implementation of the Clean Air Act, but exceeding federal expectations. That’s been good for our economy and people’s health. But budget cuts mean less accountability for polluters and fewer resources for the experts at the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to carry out their work protecting lives.”
Iwanowicz added, “With key actions and investments in the next state budget, which empower DEC air staff to adequately monitor and ensure compliance, the Governor and legislators can stop the backslide we’ve seen, reduce the medical costs associated with ailments connected to or triggered by dirty air, and be there for communities that need help from the State.”
While air quality has improved greatly, New Yorkers’ concerns are rising due to a lack of sufficient funding for air pollution monitoring and enforcement, and an increased reliance by State authorities for polluters to self-monitor and report. Key findings within the report:
- Statewide, there has been a 25 percent reduction in air monitors since 2009, dropping from an already low 74 to just 55.
- Metropolitan areas such as Binghamton and Elmira have no local air quality monitors, while other areas with significant congestion-related emissions, such as New York City, have too few.
- Federal and State clean air operating funds have been reduced by 34 percent, from more than $45 million in SFY 2007-08, to under $30 million in the current fiscal year.
- The Governor and legislators have now delayed implementation of the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) of 2006 for six years.
- Increased fees for industries with smokestacks that require monitoring ($3 million in additional revenue projected for the current fiscal year) are not being reinvested back into the DEC units conducting compliance and monitoring.
- Reduced Federal and State investment has resulted in a lack of funds to fulfill standard air monitoring responsibilities.
The report follows a 2013 report from Environmental Advocates, Turning a Blind Eye to Illegal Pollution, which documented how budget cuts and flat lines to the DEC have led to an increased reliance on polluters self-reporting their compliance with the Clean Air Act, among other federal laws. That report, for instance, found a 44 percent decline in DEC-led stack testing for toxic air pollution, even as a report from the Office of the State Comptroller found that insurance premium costs in New York due to asthma, which is exacerbated by dirty air, is $1.3 billion.
Environmental Advocates urges the Governor and legislators to protect New Yorkers’ clean air by taking steps in the next state budget process, which include but are not limited to:
- Full implementation of the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act of 2006.
- Increased funding for state clean air programs through the DEC’s Division of Air Resources, and a guaranteed annual budget for ongoing monitoring and enforcement.
- Increasing the number of near roadway air pollution monitors to cover all metropolitan areas of the state.