– Super Bills Provide Roadmap to Fight Climate Change, Clean up Albany

April 4, 2013

For Immediate Release: April 4, 2013
Travis Proulx, [email protected] , 518-462-5526 x238

Super Bills Provide Roadmap to
Fight Climate Change, Clean up Albany

Green Panel Urges Campaign Finance Reform to End Corporate-Funded Legislative Logjams

Albany—With the State Budget complete, and yet another ethical debacle at the Capitol, all eyes have turned to what Governor Cuomo and legislators will accomplish during the remainder of this legislative session. The devastation felt by Hurricanes Sandy and Irene, and Tropical Storm Lee, has created new urgency for government to better prepare New Yorkers for a changing climate, establish the state as a leader in the development of clean renewable energy, and focus on environmental initiatives that keep our families safe year-round.

Today, a broad coalition of environmental and public interest groups known as the Green Panel announced the 2013 Super Bills, priority legislation that will:

Clean up the money in politics through campaign finance reform that stops corporate-funded legislative logjams.
Reduce New York’s climate-altering emissions.
Repower New York with clean solar energy.
Ensure that no decision on fracking is made before the science on its impacts on the environment and public health is complete.
Remove toxic chemicals from children’s products.
Additionally, the organizations have pinpointed campaign finance reform as a key plank in their legislative platform as sound environmental policy too often falls victim to a legislative logjam – particularly in the Senate – as impacted industries funnel contributions to prevent bills from ever reaching a floor vote.

David VanLuven, Policy Director of Environmental Advocates NY, “This year’s Super Bills are as common-sense as they come. From the moment someone chooses to run for office, they realize what our campaign finance laws allow them to get away with – and some choose to carry that behavior into elected office which results in the legislative logjams we are continually up against. We believe the votes are there for every one of these bills, and urge legislative leaders to bring them to the floor to let members vote their conscience. Our leaders have said that addressing climate change, cleaning up Albany’s ethical debacles and keeping families safe are among their top priorities – the Super Bills are a roadmap for them to turn their words into action before leaving Albany in June. If Governor Cuomo and legislators act on these bills, it will prove to be a win all around for our economy, families, and environment.”

Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment said, “New York faces threats ranging from toxic toys to dirty drilling to climate change. Fortunately, we have common sense solutions to these problems, and it is time to use them. Passing the Super Bills will not only help to protect our health and environment from these threats, but will also provide new opportunities for New York’s economy to thrive. CCE urges the Legislature and Governor Cuomo to take action on these bills this session.”

The 2013 Super Bills

Fracking Moratorium & Health Impacts Assessment (A.5424-A/ S.4236-A)
This legislation requires a comprehensive health impact assessment to determine the public health repercussions of fracking. The assessment must be completed by April 15, 2015. The bill also ensures that no gas drilling permits will be issued for drilling within the Marcellus or Utica Shales prior to the assessment’s completion.

New York Solar Bill (A.5060/S.2522)
This legislation will solidify New York’s commitment to solar energy by establishing, in statute, a stable and predictable incentive program through 2023. The creation of a robust, long-term solar initiative will provide market-certainty which manufacturers, developers, and installers need to invest in New York State. Many other states are moving forward with solar energy development, which is expected to be the second most produced new form of energy in 2013.

Child Safe Products Act (A. 6328)
This legislation requires better regulation of toxic chemicals in children’s products. It will prioritize chemicals based on the likelihood for children to be exposed to them, and require disclosure by children’s product manufacturers as to whether their products contain the worst offending chemicals. It will also phase out children’s products made with these chemicals starting January 1, 2018.
Kathleen A. Curtis, LPN, Executive Director of Clean and Healthy New York said, “New York’s parents want child-safe products, and the time to act is now. Several other states have already passed and are implementing strong policies to protect children from toxic chemicals. Don’t New York’s children deserve the same safeguards?”

Global Warming Pollution & Control Act (A.6327/S.735)
This plan would establish a greenhouse gas emissions limit from all sources in New York State and require that the limit not be greater than what statewide emissions were in the year 1990. It would also require that the statewide limit be reduced by 20% by the year 2020, with five-year incremental reduction targets thereafter, until overall emissions in 2050 are capped at 80% below the 1990 level.
Laura Haight, Senior Environmental Associate with the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) said, “In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, much of the focus has been on how we rebuild to make our communities less vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. It is equally important, if not more so, to redouble our efforts to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing global warming in the first place. New York can lead the way by enacting the Global Warming Pollution Control Act, which would cut emissions across all sectors of the economy by 80% by 2050. Our political leaders must tackle this issue head-on – as we have seen from the increased incidence and severity of droughts, storms, and other weather extremes, we cannot afford to hide our heads in the sand on climate change.”

Nadine Lemmon, Albany Legislative Advocate for Tri-State Transportation Campaign said, “This year, Mother Nature sent her message loud and clear—it is time for New York to get serious about curbing the damaging effects of climate change. The Global Warming Pollution and Control Act will set clear and achievable targets limiting greenhouse gas emissions from all sources, including transportation, which accounts for more than 30% of our emissions. This bill is about our environment as well as our bottom line, as evidenced by the costly damage wracked up to New York’s economy by Sandy and other storms.”

Campaign Finance Reform
Designation as an official Super Bill is pending the details of any agreement reached by the Governor and legislative leaders. The need for reform is obvious – in 2012 alone, efforts to strengthen our environment were met by a wall of corporate cash that totaled more than $5 million in lobbying expenses and direct campaign contributions.
Roger Downs, Conservation Director for the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter said, “Year after year the environmental community has watched key legislative priorities die in Albany because of the millions of dollars in industry lobbying expenses and campaign contributions that insulate decision-makers from doing the right thing. In spite of unprecedented public support, it is difficult to turn the tide against issues like fracking or climate disruption when there is an unfair advantage given to wealthy industries that block even the most basic environmental safe guards and policies. Now more than ever, campaign finance reform must be seen as a critical environmental issue.”

The Green Panel will be looking for a campaign finance plan that has a public financing program modeled after the system used in New York City. This will encourage candidates for office to reach out to their constituents for support, rather than relying on wealthy special interests. Additionally, campaign finance reform should include:

  • A new, truly independent oversight and enforcement body.
  • Contribution limits (currently $60,800 for candidates for statewide office and effectively unlimited for political parties) lowered for all political committees.
  • Rules that clearly ban “pay-to-play” to reduce contribution limits for lobbyists and contractors doing business with the state.
  • Improved disclosure requirements.
  • The Super Bills will serve as the centerpiece of the environmental community’s policy agenda at the annual Earth Day Lobby Day, slated for April 23, 2013.

The Super Bills are selected each year by the Green Panel, which includes representatives of more than a dozen environmental organizations from across the state. Lawmakers receive bonus points for votes in support of the Super Bills in EPL/Environmental Advocates’ annual Voters’ Guide, the only scorecard that grades legislators according to their votes on bills that would hurt or protect New York’s air, land, and water.