A.G. Schneiderman Celebrates Earth Week By Presenting A Review Of Initiatives Protecting Our Environment
Map Of Regional Programs Demonstrates Statewide Impact Of Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Efforts
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
NEW YORK – 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,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “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 Central New York/Hudson Valley, Attorney General Schneiderman:
- Is leading the state's fight to ensure that the relicensing proceeding for the Indian Point nuclear power plant includes a full, fair and open examination of many critical questions about the safety of the reactors before any decisions are made about their continued operation.
- Announced an agreement among his office, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the Atlantic States Legal Foundation and Onondaga County that directs environmental penalty funds toward projects to reduce sewage overflows to Onondaga Lake and its tributaries. The funds originate from a 1996 court order against Onondaga County related to water quality violations at its Metropolitan Syracuse Wastewater Treatment Facility. The agreement identifies two projects to receive funding that will enhance the county’s ongoing work to reduce sewage overflows and improve water quality in Onondaga Lake and its tributaries.
- Joined by DEC and federal officials, announced an amended settlement with Lafarge North America, which operates a cement plant in Ravena, that will achieve further air pollution reductions. The revised agreement sets certain limits for emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide by the Ravena plant that are below those contained in the original settlement, and it secures additional funds to mitigate pollution impacts in the surrounding area. A separate agreement between New York and LaFarge limits mercury emissions to levels 25 percent lower than the plant's current air pollution control permit allows.
- Together with the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, reached a court-ordered settlement requiring the owner of Potanovic & Sons Professional Tree Care, a Yonkers-based tree serviceto pay sanctions valued at $64,000 for illegally entering a state park in Westchester County and removing the tops of trees. Three private landowners who hired the company to improve their views are contributing $24,000 toward this settlement.
- Obtained a felony guilty plea, including a jail sentence, from the operator of a large, un-permitted construction and demolition debris landfillcontaining ash and slag, which can be carcinogenic. The illegal landfill was located within the New York City Watershed, which provides drinking water to nearly one-half of New York State’s population.
In New York City, Attorney General Schneiderman:
- Played a central role in a New York Public Service Commission decisionthat not only denied Con Ed a rate increase, but requires the utility to undertake aggressive action to harden its electricity system from the consequences of severe coastal storms and to engage in an in-depth study of its system’s vulnerability to climate change. In this proceeding, his office successfully argued that Con Edison must focus its attention on the real and increasing threat that climate change poses to its infrastructure and, ultimately, its customers.
- Filed an amicus brief asking an appellate court to reverse a decision allowing an office tower to be built above the New Jersey Palisadesbecause the decision failed to consider the impact of the tower on the historic Palisades Interstate Park. The proposed LG Electronics tower would rise over the Palisades tree line, infringing on a vista that has been protected by the States of New York and New Jersey.
- Together with DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens, announced the first grant awards from the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund (GCEF), a $19.5 million environmental improvement fund created from money obtained by the state in a 2011 settlement with ExxonMobil over its massive oil spill in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Grant money will be used to address environmental improvement priorities of Greenpoint residents.
- Dedicated over$2.1 million to join local efforts in the Bronx and Westchester County focused on restoring the Bronx River. The funding from the Attorney General's Bronx River Watershed Initiative combines with almost $2 million in matching and leveraged funds to bring $4 million to 10 local entities, government and not-for-profit groups, for green infrastructure projects.
- Along with the DEC, reached a landmark agreement that will keep New York City on track to reduce discharges of nitrogen by municipal wastewater treatment plants into Long Island Sound by nearly 60%. The agreement also committed the city to cut its plants' nitrogen discharges to Jamaica Bay by nearly 50%. Because fish and other marine life are significantly harmed when nitrogen reduces the oxygen in coastal waters, the agreement requires the city to fund extensive marshland restoration in the bay.
- With DEC Commissioner Martens, announced a felony indictment against two Queens residents for their role in the systematic abandonment of five tanker trailerseach filled with thousands of gallons of waste oil substances throughout Brooklyn. One of the defendants pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $170,000 fine.
On Long Island, Attorney General Schneiderman:
- Won an important victory defending New York’s ability to hold polluters responsible for environmental cleanups under federal “polluter pays” law, in this case the cleanup of hazardous substances associated with an industrial park in the Town of Hempstead that had reached the town's drinking water supply. The court reiterated the federal law's dual purposes of allowing states to take necessary actions to clean up hazardous waste and to hold polluters responsible for their actions.
- Won a victory for endangered and threatened species by successfully defending state regulations requiring that a specific permit be obtained when proposed development activities and other land use changes may cause “significant modification or degradation” to a protected species’ habitat, such as Long Island’s short-eared owls and tiger salamanders.
- Secured a $40,000 penalty against G.C. Environmental, Inc., based in Bay Shore, Long Island, for violating New York State law by using deceptive practices in an attempt to obtain business from victims of Hurricane Sandy. Within weeks of the storm, the company mailed nearly 2,300 letters closely resembling State Department of Environmental Conservation notices of violation to property owners who had suffered petroleum spills as a result of the storm. The letter created the impression that the DEC was contemplating a fine or penalty against the recipient. The last paragraph of the letter promoted and offered GC’s services in cleaning up spills in order to avoid fines.
- Continues to protect the Long Island Pine Barrens, including its unique ecosystems and critical drinking water supplies, by ensuring the full and fair enforcement of the Long Island Pine Barrens Protection Act.
In the North Country, Attorney General Schneiderman:
- Joined the DEC, federal government and St. Regis Mohawk Tribe in announcing a $19.4 million settlement with Alcoa, Inc., and Reynolds Metals Company for damages to natural resources, recreational fishing and Mohawk culture resulting from the companies' release of hazardous substances into the St. Lawrence River environment since at least the late 1950s. Settlement money will be combined with restoration funds obtained from a 2011 General Motors bankruptcy settlement to bring $20.3 million to restoration efforts in the St. Lawrence River area -- including restoring injured natural resources, protecting wildlife habitats and improving public recreational fishing access.
- In defense of the public’s right to travel on navigable waters in Adirondack Park, won a judgment against landowners who used intimidating signs, cameras and steel cables they placed across an Adirondack waterway in an effort to prevent kayakers, canoeists and other recreational boaters from traveling through a public waterway that traverses their property.
- Provided $400,000 to create the “Adirondack Acid Rain Recovery Program,”a grant program to fund projects aimed at restoring hundreds of lakes and streams in the Adirondacks still suffering from damage by acid rain pollution.
- Reached a settlement of more than $8 million with ExxonMobil Oil Corporation that will reimburse New York State for costs incurred in investigating and remediating an oil spill at the company's oil storage facility in Ogdensburg.
In the Southern Tier, Attorney General Schneiderman:
- Intervened in a federal proceeding on the Constitution Pipeline Company's application for approval to construct a 120-mile natural gas pipeline from Pennsylvania to eastern New York (with the majority running through New York). He is seeking to ensure that federal regulators conduct a full and thorough review of potential environmental impacts that considers and evaluates alternatives to the proposed pipeline, and that squarely addresses methane and other greenhouse gas emissions from the project and reasonable means to mitigate those emissions.
- Defeated a lawsuit brought by natural gas drilling company U.S. Energy that sought to block enforcement of New York's water pollution regulations that protect New York water from pollution originating from the company’s hydrofracking operations across the state line in Pennsylvania.
- Reached a landmark agreement with Chesapeake Appalachia, L.L.C., to allow over 4,400 landowners who were locked into unfavorable natural gas leases the opportunity to renegotiate with another energy company. The Oklahoma-based company claimed that, because New York State's continuing review of hydrofracking prevented it from performing any exploration and development operations for shale wells, the company had the right to unilaterally extend expiring leases. Since executing this agreement, a federal judge ruled that New York’s current hydrofracking moratorium did not give Chesapeake the right to unilaterally extended leases.
In Western New York, Attorney General Schneiderman:
- Continues to work to ensure that Amigone Funeral Home’s crematorywill 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 Attorney General Schneiderman's office resulted in Amigone suspending operations at the crematory.
- Is providing nearly $2.2 million for a two-pronged expansion of the highly 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, Attorney General 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 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.
Statewide, Attorney General Schneiderman:
- 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 our health.
- Led a coalition of seven states in filing a lawsuit against the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 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 standardsfor 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 that 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 Attorney General’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.
Attorney General 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, that 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. His 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, Attorney General 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 insidious 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 United States – of the proposed project and related means of oil transport. The Attorney General 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 that 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, the Attorney General 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 that 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.
The Environmental Protection Bureau Chief is Lemuel Srolovic. The Bureau is part of the Social Justice Division, which is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Alvin Bragg.