EPL/Environmental Advocates’ 2012 Voters’ Guide released last week demonstrates how this year was one of the least productive—and potentially most damaging—for New York State’s environmental agenda in more than a decade.
Scores fell in both houses due to lack of action on the environmental community’s priority Super Bills—pieces of legislation most critical to our environmental health—including a bill that would close a dangerous loophole regarding the disposal of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” waste and a bill that would protect children and families from toxic chemicals. It’s the first time since 2006 that the Senate failed to pass a single Super Bill, meaning none of these important pieces of legislation made it to the Governor’s desk.
In the 2012 legislative session, we also saw an increase in the passage of bills that actually do harm to New York’s environment. For the first time in almost a decade both houses passed three bills that are detrimental to our air, land, and water. These bills raid money intended to fund sewer infrastructure projects in Long Island and the mid-Hudson and allow a land swap in the Adirondack Preserve for mining purposes.
But this year wasn’t all bad news. Bills that would protect New York State by prohibiting the sale and distribution of invasive species and requiring sewage treatment plants to notify the public of accidental releases of untreated waste have already been signed into law. Another bill that would add money to the Environmental Protection Fund passed both houses and is now waiting for the Governor’s signature. This should be an easy bill for him to sign, but stay tuned—we’ll need your help!
On average, Republican Senators scored worse than their Democratic colleagues (33 to 61). Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) earned a score of 31 this year, while Minority Leader John Sampson (D-Brooklyn) earned just 49. Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo), the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee Chair, earned only a 35.
In the Assembly, Republican members scored a 49 on average, while the Democratic members averaged 89. Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and Majority Leader Ron Canestrari (D-Cohoes) both earned a score of 88 this year, while Minority Leader Brian Kolb (R-Geneva) earned a 36. Robert Sweeney, the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee Chair, earned a 95.
Special Recognitions & the Oil Slick Award
While no one was honored as Legislator of the Year, EPL/Environmental Advocates recognized two members of the Assembly, Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst) and George Latimer (D-Mamaroneck), as this year’s greenest legislators. Assemblyman Sweeney, Chair of the Environmental Conservation Committee in his house, helped shepherd good legislation through his committee and the house. Assemblyman Latimer pushed to increase funding to the Environmental Protection Fund, repairing the damage done by sweeps in previous years. These funds will ensure that money is available moving forward to fund green energy development and create new jobs in the green sector.
Another member of the Assembly, Sean Hanna (R-Henrietta), a former regional director for the Department of Environmental Conservation, received the Oil Slick Award after just two years in office due to an alarmingly anti-environmental voting record, as well as public remarks denying the science of climate change and efforts to oppose any effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Hanna also sponsored legislation to repeal the state’s pesticides laws, which provide the public with many safeguards from these dangerous chemicals.
The Voters’ Guide is the first and only record of New York State lawmakers’ votes on legislation that will impact the environment. The Guide has been produced and distributed statewide for more than 40 years. For the complete 2012 Voters’ Guide, visit www.eplvotersguide.org.