On Earth Day 2021, Attorney General James Highlights Environmental Accomplishments in Western New York

AG James Continues to Fight Relentlessly on Behalf of New Yorkers and the Environment

NEW YORK – To celebrate Earth Day 2021, New York Attorney General Letitia James today highlighted a number of local, statewide, and federal public health and environmental protection efforts that her office has taken to protect communities in Western New York.

“Throughout my career, I have taken countless legal and legislative actions to protect the environment because far too often, the negative impacts of an unhealthy planet are not shared equally,” said Attorney General James. “We cannot talk about Earth Day and climate change without first talking about the disproportionate impact on our most vulnerable communities. That’s why it has been important for me to address critical issues for Western New York communities, such as lead poisoning in Buffalo homes and hazardous waste in Tonawanda. This Earth Day, I remain committed to supporting and protecting our communities through critical environmental actions, both in New York and across the nation.”

Attorney General James has taken a number of actions in the Western New York region to address key climate, environmental, and public safety concerns. For example:

On a statewide basis, some examples of notable actions taken by Attorney General James include:

  • Continuing to Hold Accountable Those Responsible for the Contamination of PFAS — so-named “forever chemicals.” The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) is currently litigating a landmark lawsuit against the makers of PFAS-containing firefighting foam products for the contamination caused by the use of their products and the creation of a public nuisance. This lawsuit seeks to recover at least $51 million in costs incurred by the state in the cleanup of the dangerous chemicals released into the environment at several military bases, civilian airports, and other sites in New York.                                      
  • Assisting in Implementing New York’s Climate Law. In 2019, New York enacted the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), the most ambitious clean energy and climate law in the nation. The new law requires New York to reduce economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 and no less than 85 percent by 2050 from 1990 levels. The law creates a Climate Action Council — and Climate Justice and Just Transition Working Groups — charged with developing a scoping plan of recommendations to meet these targets and place New York on a path toward carbon neutrality, in manner that ensures all New Yorkers secure the economic and environmental benefits of the renewable energy economy. The OAG is actively engaged in assisting agencies with the implementation of CLCPA to ensure it meets its goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions and fostering a just and equitable transition to a green economy in New York. 

For four years of the Trump Administration — and particularly in its final year — Attorney General James was a national leader in countering the former administration’s relentless, reckless, and illegal efforts to eliminate critical safeguards on which individuals, families, and communities in New York depend. Examples of recent federal environmental actions taken by OAG that are benefiting New Yorkers include:

  • Protecting Migratory Birds. In January 2021, Attorney General James led a coalition of 12 states in suing over a Trump Administration Department of Interior (DOI) rule narrowing the scope of protections for migratory birds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) by eliminating liability of the oil and gas industry and others for killing birds, as a result of oil spills, electrocution, and pesticide poisoning, among other things. Attorney General James had previously led a coalition of eight states in successfully convincing a federal court to set aside the legal basis for that narrowing, but the Trump DOI ignored that ruling and proceeded to formalize it into regulation. In March 2021, the Biden DOI agreed with Attorney General James and withdrew the basis of the rule — the Trump-era determination that the MBTA is inapplicable to incidental (non-purposeful) killing of migratory birds. More than 320 species of birds regularly migrate through, nest, or winter in New York. New York hosts 4.1 million birdwatchers and a $4.2 billion birdwatching and wildlife watching industry.                                                              

According to the New York University School of Law’s State Energy and Environmental Impact Center, since 2017, OAG has been a leader in taking legal actions against federal agencies on issues related to the environment. In recent years, OAG has taken over 240 significant regulatory and legal actions — and over 70 actions in 2020 alone — in opposition to the former administration’s concerted, across-the-board drive to undermine many of our nation’s bedrock health, safety, and environmental laws.