Empowering Communities, Advocating Solutions

CCE in Albany: Lobbying on the Budget


Yesterday, CCE staff went to Albany to discuss our budget priorities with members of the New York State Assembly and Senate.

I just wanted to take a minute to share some of CCE’s priorities with you, so you know what are fighting for in Albany during the budget process.   And just so you know where we are in the process, here is a general overview of what the process looks like.  The Governor proposes an Executive Budget (this happened on January 21st); then the Assembly and Senate put together their versions of the budget; and finally the versions are all reconciled.

So anyway, back to our priorities:

The Environmental Protection Fund  (EPF)

The Ask: Increase to $200 million

Why:  The Environmental Protection Fund is critical to every New Yorker, transcending all race, age, class, and gender differences.  From Montauk to Buffalo, the EPF enhances the quality of life for everyone living in the Empire State.  A 2012 analysis by The Trust for Public Land found for every $1 of EPF funds invested in land and water protection, $7 in economic benefits through natural goods and services is returned to the state of New York.  The EPF supports thousands of jobs in our state from outdoor tourism to agriculture to drinking water protection and more.  EPF-supported industries generate approximately $40 billion in revenue every year.

Through the EPF, New York is conserving and enhancing farms, forests, rivers, beaches, and lakes.  The EPF is supporting community parks, recycling programs, zoos and botanical gardens.  EPF programs improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers. The programs attract businesses, create jobs and protect our water, air, and quality of life.  Unfortunately, the dollars needed for these programs far outpaces appropriations and spending.  Delays and long waiting lists for EPF projects continue to threaten opportunities to leverage millions of dollars from local, federal and private sources.  The current proposal to fund the EPF at $157 million for FY2014-15 is not enough to address the outstanding needs. A healthy economy is reliant upon a healthy environment.

Pharmaceutical Take Back Program for Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities

The Ask: $800,000 to expand the program across NYS

Why:  Pharmaceutical contamination in groundwater, rivers, lakes, estuaries, and bays is an emerging issue throughout New York. Flushing unwanted or unused medication has been a common disposal practice, despite the fact that sewage treatment plants, septic systems, and drinking water infrastructure were never designed to remove these contaminants.  Pharmaceuticals enter wastewater from a variety of sources, including the flushing of unused medications. A nationwide study done in 1999 and 2000 by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) found low levels of drugs such as antibiotics, hormones, anticonvulsants, and steroids in 80% of the rivers and streams tested.

Unfortunately, there are limited options for the safe disposal of unused pharmaceuticals.  Therefore, many healthcare facilities throughout NYS that have large quantities of unused/expired drugs are flushing these drugs as a standard practice.  However, one laudable example of safe disposal is offered and run by the NYS DEC.  The DEC program is provided for healthcare facilities in the Croton Reservoir, a sub-watershed of the New York City drinking watershed; and is being expanded to Monroe County in Upstate New York.    The DEC program is designed to complement the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) program that also picks up drugs twice a year, in April and October.  CCE is requesting that the State of New York expand its current program to include all of New York State.   Expanding the DEC program, in combination with the DEA program, will provide critically needed quarterly safe disposal options for healthcare facilities.

Sewage Pollution Right to Know Implementation

The Ask: $850,000 to provide assistance to municipalities to implement the law

Why: The Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act (SPRTK) was passed in 2012 to provide the public with information on when and where sewage overflows occur, so they can avoid unnecessary exposure to harmful sewage pollution.  Unfortunately, this law has still not been fully implemented.  One aspect of the law that is yet to be implemented is the notification of discharges from combined sewer systems, called Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs). More than 33 billion gallons of combined sewage and stormwater is discharged into New York’s waterways each year. The volume of raw sewage discharged from CSOs make them the largest single source of sewage contamination that is covered by SPRTK.

In order to enable CSO communities to gather better information on these discharges – including the where, when, how much and how long that is required by SPRTK – CCE encourages the Legislature to designate $850,000 to DEC for the purposes of conducting CSO outfall monitoring and/or CSO discharge predictive modeling.  This critical monitoring and modeling will provide members of the public with the information necessary to make informed swimming, boating, and fishing choices for themselves and their families.

 Reusable Bag Incentive

The Ask:  Include a 5 cent fee on paper and plastic disposable bags to create an incentive for reusable bag use

Why:  Over the last few decades, the issue of disposable bag pollution has become a global concern.  Plastic and paper bags have become ubiquitous part of daily life, and are taking a toll on our environment and our economy.  According to the EPA, between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year, and each of those bags is used for an average of 12 minutes.  These bags, which never fully break down, end up in our landfills, parks, beaches, along roadways, parking lots and in our waterways.  Disposable bags are harmful, wasteful, costly, and unnecessary.  

Disposable bags cause significant problems to our environment and economy, and their free giveaway comes at a significant cost to society:

  • U.S. retailers spend approximately $4 billion annually to purchase disposable bags, which is passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices.
  • Municipalities are also spending millions of dollars to dispose of plastic bags. For example NYC spends $10 million annually to dispose of plastic bags.
  • Disposable bags often end up as unsightly litter in our communities, and when it rains, this litter is swept into storm drains blocking them and causing infrastructure damage and localized flooding.
  • Recent studies have found high levels of plastics in the Great Lakes and oceans, and thousands of plastic bags are being found on beaches throughout NY.

Speaking of the budget and Albany – CCE’s Adrienne Esposito (our fearless leader!) testified to a Joint Assembly and Senate budget hearing on environmental priorities on January 29th.  You can look at a copy of her testimony here.

I’ll be back throughout the New York State legislative session to give you updates.   And of course, don’t hesitate to contact your Assemblymember or Senator on these issues.


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