This is a press release from the New York League of Conservation Voters: Environmental funding, clean water and clean energy have emerged as the top sustainability issues of the year in Albany, and action on those issues will factor heavily into environmentalists' support for state lawmakers in their re-election campaigns later this year.
The New York League of Conservation Voters, which elects for the environment, has identified four issues that are critical for legislators to address during the current session that ends in June. The list of priorities was developed in close consultation with NYLCV's partners in the environmental, conservation and energy communities.
Most importantly, lawmakers' action on the four issues will play a key role in NYLCV's environmental endorsements and electoral activities later this year. NYLCV has the only political action committee -- called NYLCV PAC -- that runs electoral campaigns to elect environmental leaders.
"Today, we are setting the goalpost for environmental progress in Albany," said Marcia Bystryn, NYLCV's President. "These four issues consistently rank as top priorities for the state's leading green groups and the political climate is ripe for action. In just a matter of weeks, NYLCV will begin our candidate screening process. The first question we will ask is how lawmakers helped advance these bills. We will then make our endorsements and campaign decisions accordingly."
NYLCV's top environmental priorities for the 2012 legislative session are:
1) The Environmental Protection Fund
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed maintaining the EPF at last year's level of $134 million. NYLCV recently participated in a key lobby day and is working on a media campaign to encourage lawmakers to agree to that number in the final budget. We are also working with the Friends of New York's Environment to advocate for additional EPF revenues through unclaimed bottle deposits. Those funds are currently going directly into the general fund, to no environmental benefit.
2) Hazardous wastes from hydrofracking
A loophole in federal environmental regulations currently categorizes hydrofracking wastewater as non-hazardous -- even if the wastewater itself is actually hazardous. In February, the Assembly passed a bill to close this loophole and protect New York's natural resources. NYLCV will be working closely with our partner organizations to pass companion legislation in the Senate.
3) Sewage right-to-know
There is currently no state law that requires the public to be notified when sewage contaminates New York's coastal waters, lakes and rivers. This leaves millions of residents at risk of contracting waterborne illnesses from exposure to sewage-laden water. With infrastructure maintenance on the decline, this is not acceptable. Many states have passed sewage public notification laws. It's time for New York to do the same.
4) Solar energy
In his State of the State address, Gov. Cuomo specifically mentioned solar -- vowing to double in-state generation by the end of the year, and quadruple it by 2013. The governor's budget proposal also calls for tax credits for the installation of solar systems. These initiatives are a good start, but state lawmakers can go a step further. NYLCV is playing a key role in a broad coalition of organizations to push for a long-term and robust solar program. Our goal is to position New York as a clean-energy leader, improve air quality and generate significant economic activity.
For more ideas about how New York’s elected leaders can improve the environment and transition to a clean-energy future in 2012, check out NYLCV’s State Policy Agenda.