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Post date: April 22 2013

A.G. Schneiderman Celebrates Earth Day By Announcing Bronx River Restoration Grants, Highlighting New York Successes Protecting Our Environment

$4 Million In Funding For Green Infrastructure Projects To Ten Bronx And Westchester Entities To Help Improve Water Quality

Schneiderman: Successful Projects Around The State Are Protecting New Yorkers’ Right To Clean Air To Breathe, Pure Water To Drink, A Stable Climate And Healthy Communities In Which To Live

NEW YORK -- In honor of Earth Day, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today highlighted important environmental protection initiatives taken by his office and announced that more than $4 million is going to local Bronx and Westchester County entities to help them improve water quality in the Bronx River. The Attorney General’s Bronx River Watershed Initiative has dedicated more than $2.1 million to support local efforts in the Bronx and Westchester Counties focused on restoring water quality in the waterway by controlling storm runoff and snow melt. With matching funds, the initiative is bringing $4 million to ten local entities for "green infrastructure" projects that combat principal causes of the Bronx River’s continuing water quality problems.

"I am proud to fight to protect every New Yorkers' right to clean air, pure drinking water, a stable environment and healthy communities,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “From safeguarding Long Island's Pine Barrens, cleaning up the Hudson River, protecting the Adirondack wilderness and waterways in the Southern Tier and securing air quality in Western New York communities, we've made tremendous progress across New York improving our environment. While I am proud of our accomplishments, we will continue to press for much tougher protections, including fighting against climate change pollution and for a tightening of national air quality standards. "

The Bronx River Watershed Initiative:

Attorney General Schneiderman announced today that his office has 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 ten local entities, government and not-for-profit groups, for "green infrastructure" projects.

These project directly combat a principal cause of the Bronx River’s continuing water quality problems: The rainwater and snowmelt that flows into the river over impervious surfaces, picking up raw sewage, litter, gas and oil, pesticides, fertilizers and other harmful pollutants along its path. Projects funded by the Attorney General include a $400,000 storm-water capture and treatment project at the Bronx Zoo, a $260,000 green roof project at the Bronx River Art Center and over $725,000 for rainwater runoff control projects in the Village of Tuckahoe and Town of Greenburgh. The Initiative has brought a total of almost $15 million to Bronx River restoration efforts since funding began in 2007.

In the last two years, Attorney General Schneiderman has led efforts to protect our environment around the state. 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 operations.
  • Obtained a felony guilty plea, including a jail sentence, from the operator of a large, un-permitted construction and demolition debris landfill containing 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 partnership with the state Department of Environmental Conservation and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the office created a nearly $450,000 grant program to help the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk Central School District transform school buildings into healthy, energy-efficient "high performance" schools at no cost to taxpayers.

In New York City, Attorney General Schneiderman:

  • Arrested eight motor vehicle inspectors who issued more than 13,000 fraudulent inspection certificates to vehicles they were paid not to test at seven of the city's busiest inspection stations. The inspectors and several of the companies they worked at were charged with numerous felonies and face up to seven years in prison. By flouting state requirements, thousands of substandard vehicles were allowed to remain on New York roads, leading to increased safety risks for drivers and the significant degradation of New York air quality.
  • Along with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, reached a landmark agreement that will keep the 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 cutting 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.
  • Following a criminal investigation, cracked down on the sale of thousands of pounds of contaminated clams purchased out-of-state and sold in Chinatown. Consumption of raw shellfish with the type of extreme contamination found places a person in substantial risk of serious physical injury or even death.

On Long Island, Attorney General Schneiderman:

Won an important victory for endangered and threatened species by successfully defending State regulations requiring 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.

  • 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:

  • With the state Department of Environmental Conservation, federal agencies and Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, spearheaded legal action that resulted in a $18.5 million settlement from Aloca Inc. and Reynolds Metals Company for natural resources damages to the St. Lawrence River environment. The settlement will provide approximately $7.3 million for wetlands, stream bank, fisheries and other natural resource restoration projects and $8.4 to fund tribal cultural restoration projects, including those promoting Mohawk language and traditional teachings. In addition, the settlement will fund the acquisition of lands valued at $1 million for wildlife protection and projects valued at $1.5 million to increase public access to fishing.
  • In defense of the public's right to travel on navigable waters in the Adirondack Park, joined a successful lawsuit against landowners who used intimidating signs, cameras and steel cables they placed across Adirondack waterways in an effort to prevent kayakers, canoeists and other boaters from traveling through public waterways that traverse 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 the damages of acid rain pollution.

In the Southern Tier, Attorney General Schneiderman:

  • Defeated a lawsuit brought by the 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 Pennsylvania fracking operations.
  • 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 Oaklahoma-based company claimed that, because of New York State's continuing review of fracking 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 fracking moratorium did not give Chesapeake the right to unilaterally extended leases.

In Western New York, Attorney General Schneiderman:

  • Reached an agreement with the operator of a Tonadwanda-based funeral home crematory to temporary suspend its operations while pursuing solutions to eliminate odor, particles, smoke and other emissions that have been the source of persistent community complaints.
  • The office is participating in the implementation of Buffalo Green and Healthy Homes Initiative which was created with $2.1 million from Attorney General Schneiderman's office to fund energy efficiency measures and catalyze health and safety improvements in residential housing in Buffalo's underserved communities.

Statewide, Attorney General Schneiderman:

  • Successfully defended the State against a lawsuit 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.
  • Successfully defended restrictions that New York added to a federal Environmental Protection Agency 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 New York waters are properly protected from these harmful, non-native species.

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 nation's Nuclear Regulatory Commission 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.
  • Leading a coalition of 11 states, Attorney General Schneiderman reached a settlement with the federal Environmental Protection Agency that compelled the agency to update national air quality standards for soot pollution and ensure all Americans, including the most vulnerable, will be protected.
  • Leading a coalition of seven states, the Attorney General filed notice of intent to sue the federal Environmental Protection Agency 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.