Schneiderman: Successful projects around the state are protecting New Yorkers' right to breathe clean air, drink pure water, live in a stable climate and healthy communities
In honor of Earth Week, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today presented important environmental protection initiatives undertaken by his office and provided a map showing the impact of his environmental protection bureau in every region of the state.
"I am deeply committed to protecting clean air and pure drinking water, and providing a stable environment and healthy communities for all New Yorkers," Schneiderman said. "From safeguarding the Long Island Sound, to cleaning up the St. Lawrence River, protecting the Adirondack wilderness and helping families in Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse improve the energy efficiency of their homes, we've made tremendous progress across New York in improving our environment. We are proud of our accomplishments, but we continue to face daunting challenges. This Earth Week, we recommit ourselves to the fight for tougher protections against climate change pollution and for stronger national air quality standards."
Recent environmental victories include:
In Western New York, Schneiderman:
•Continues to work to ensure Amigone Funeral Home's crematory will not foul the air in a residential neighborhood in the Town of Tonawanda. The crematory, which has a long history of generating offensive odors, soot and excessive noise in its residential neighborhood, has been the source of persistent community complaints. A July 2012 agreement with Schneiderman's office resulted in Amigone suspending operations at the crematory.
•Is providing nearly $2.2 million for a two-pronged expansion of the successful Buffalo Green and Healthy Homes Initiative (BGGHI), a program that has already helped more than 200 of Buffalo's neediest families lower their energy bills and eliminate serious home health and safety hazards in older homes. First, Schneiderman is committing $193,000 to a new, two-year project to improve the participation of Buffalo's community of resettled political refugees in the BGHHI. This "New Americans Project" will help reduce communication and cultural barriers that prevent Nepali and Burmese refugees - groups with the highest rates of homeownership among Buffalo's refugee community - from fully accessing the initiative. Second, he is creating a new $2 million initiative to replicate the BGHHI model in Rochester and Syracuse. The office has dedicated $1 million to expand the program in Rochester and $1 million in Syracuse.
•Successfully defended the state against legal actions backed by the out-of-state organization Americans for Prosperity that sought to force New York to withdraw from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multi-state effort to reduce emissions of pollutants that contribute to climate change and harm health.
•Led a coalition of seven states in filing a lawsuit against the federal Environmental Protection Agency for violating the Clean Air Act by failing to adequately limit air pollution emissions from new residential wood heaters - including outdoor wood boilers, which have proliferated in many areas of New York. EPA subsequently proposed, for the first time in 25 years, stronger air pollution standards for new residential wood heaters.
•Successfully defended restrictions that New York added to an EPA permit that address the discharge of "biological pollution" by commercial ships. The agency's permit set specific limits on the number of invasive species that can be released with commercial ship ballast waters. The restrictions were specifically added by New York to ensure the state's waters are properly protected from these harmful, non-native invasive species.
•Proposed first-in-the-nation legislation that bans a form of plastic pollution that is an emerging threat to New York's Great Lakes and other bodies of water. The A.G.'s Microbead-Free Waters Act will prohibit the sale in New York of beauty and cosmetic products that contain tiny plastic particles that are often marketed as microbeads. The plastic beads, which were recently found in alarmingly high levels in the New York waters of Lake Erie, can persist in the environment for centuries and accumulate toxic chemicals on their surface, threatening fish, wildlife and public health.
Schneiderman's office is recognized as a national leader for spearheading a number of environmental protection efforts:
•The office won a landmark victory that ensures, for the first time, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) cannot issue new or renewed operating licenses for nuclear power plants until it thoroughly reviews the public health, safety and environmental hazards posed by long-term storage of nuclear waste at power plants around the country. The A.G.'s office is currently pushing the NRC to ensure a comprehensive assessment of the risks of long-term, on-site storage of highly radioactive nuclear waste at nuclear power facilities - including the Indian Point plant - is conducted in accordance with the court's decision.
•Leading a coalition of 11 states, Schneiderman reached a settlement with the EPA that compelled the agency to update national air quality standards for soot pollution and ensure all Americans, including the most vulnerable, will be protected from this air pollutant.
•Leading a coalition of 10 states and the City of New York, announced an agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy that commits the department to a timetable for updating overdue energy efficiency standards for four common commercial appliances. Strengthening the standards will result in substantial cuts in air, water and climate change pollution, and save businesses and consumers across the country an estimated $156 million per month, and $3.8 billion per year, by 2035.
•Leading a coalition of seven states, the attorney general filed a notice of intent to sue the EPA for violating provisions of the Clean Air Act by failing to address methane emissions from the oil and natural gas industry, including those from fracking operations. The oil and natural industry is the single largest source of man-made methane emissions in the U.S., and the second-largest industrial source of domestic greenhouse gas emissions, behind only electric power generating plants. Subsequently, President Obama announced a climate change action plan to reduce methane emissions that committed the administration to a strategy to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry.
•Called on the U.S. State Department to withhold any decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline project until first analyzing the full climate change pollution impacts - to New York and across the U.S. - of the proposed project and related means of oil transport. The A.G. submitted comments to the State Department as it prepares to determine whether the Keystone XL project serves the national interest. His comments aim to ensure the cumulative climate change impacts of the project are considered before a final decision is made on the proposed project.
•Leading a coalition of 15 states and New York City, Schneiderman filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in a case concerning the EPA and states' authority to regulate climate change pollution from new or modified stationary sources, such as power plants, under the Clean Air Act. The brief argued that EPA's finding greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare, and its subsequent regulation of those pollutants from motor vehicles, triggered the requirement for major stationary sources to obtain permits to limit their emission of greenhouse gases. The brief also explains how EPA's regulations phasing in regulation of climate change pollution from large stationary sources such as power plants provides states with the necessary authority to achieve cost-effective reductions in the emission of climate change pollution from these sources.
•Leading a coalition of attorneys general from 13 states, sent a letter to the leaders of the U.S. House of Representative Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy objecting to proposed legislation that would amend the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA) by stripping states of the power to protect their citizens' health and environment from dangerous chemicals. From taking action to ban dangerous chemicals formerly used in plastic baby bottles to restricting heavy metals in consumer packaging, New York has led the nation in taking necessary actions to reduce the risks to human health and the environment posed by toxic chemicals.