Adirondack Council Reviews NY Environmental Legislation

The 2013 Legislative Session ends in Albany over the weekend and the Adirondack Council says they were pleased that it included partial restoration of the Environmental Protection Fund At the close of the session, the Legislature approved the Governor’s Adirondack Park Agency appointments;  two proposed Constitutional Amendments that would add to the Adirondack Park’s public lands;  plus, bills to increase public local food procurement, prohibit invasive Eurasian boars, and safely collect and dispose of tons of mercury. The Adirondack Council says Left undone was legislation to address the emissions that cause global climate change and a “transfer of development rights” bill that would encourage projects to be located in already-developed places in the park, while discouraging destruction of intact, remote forests.

Bill Janeway is Executive Director of the Adirondack Council.. He says “Next year we need to pursue more than modest, incremental gains” and he continued by saying “Park-wide priorities include strengthening clean water and wild lands funding, and better legal protections for both.

An important aspect of the Adirondack Council’s agenda includes their stated need to revitalize struggling, local communities and the enhancement of their resiliency.

Combating climate change and invasive species, remains on their agena along with improving incentives for responsible stewardship of private forests and farmland.

The council sighted a welcome increase in the Environmental Protection Fund from $134 million to $153 million, saying it’s a welcome step toward the long-term goal of restoring the EPF to $250 million.

Among the legislation supported by the Adirondack Council that passed this session were:

 

Two proposed Constitutional Amendments that will go to the voters statewide for final approval on November 5 –

The first proposed amendment would clear up a century-old ownership dispute between the state and 200 landowners in the Town of Long Lake, both of whom believe they own the lands in question.  The swap would allow the private owners, all of whom have deeds to the lands they occupy, to remain where they are in exchange for purchasing lands nearby that would be added to the public Forest Preserve.  The lands they purchase would have to provide a net benefit to the Forest Preserve.

The second amendment would authorize a swap that would expand the Jay Mountain Wilderness and TaylorPondWildForest by at least 1,507 acres.  NYCO Minerals of Willsboro would be authorized to expand its mine in Lewis, EssexCounty, on to 200 acres of adjoining Forest Preserve in exchange.  The new lands contain better wildlife habitat and recreational amenities than the lands NYCO would use.  No Old Growth forest would be impacted.

NYCO would be required to return the lands to the public Forest Preserve, after it restores and replants the forest.  NYCO also owns processing facilities in nearby Willsboro, employing about 100 people in all.  Wollastonite is a white mineral used primarily in ceramics and as a substitute for asbestos in automobile brakes and clutches.  It is also used to make metals, paints and plastics.

Both amendments were sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Little, R-Queensbury, and Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee Chairman Robert Sweeney, D-Lindenhurst, as well as Assembly members Daniel Stec, R-Queensbury, Janet Duprey, R-Peru, and Marc Butler, R-Newport.

Constitutional Amendments do not require the governor’s signature.  Once they are approved by two separately elected Legislatures in consecutive years, they are presented to the statewide voters at the following General Election (Nov. 5).

These bills passed both houses and will become law if they are approved by the Governor.

Local Food Procurement Legislation -

Both houses passed a bill that would require state agencies to establish a food purchasing, tracking and reporting system that will provide baseline data about money being spent on food and the geographic source of that food. The bill lays the groundwork to encourage state institutions to buy more food grown on farms in New York.  It was sponsored by Sen. Patty Ritchie, R-Oswegatchie, and Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo.

Invasive Eurasian Boars Legislation -

Both houses passed a bill that would ban by 2015 the transport or possession of invasive Eurasian boars, whose recent escapes from captivity has led to widespread damage of public and private lands.  The resulting environmental damage and negative economic impacts were significant.  This bill was sponsored by Senator Little and Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, D-Manhattan.

Mercury Pollution Legislation - 

Both houses passed a bill that would expand the state’s mercury thermostat recycling program.  Tons of mercury from hundreds of thousands of discarded heating/air conditioning control units contaminates water, wildlife and food supplies when the mercury in the thermostats is not properly collected and managed. Mercury is toxic to brain and nerve cells and causes birth defects.  This bill was sponsored by Assemblyman Sweeney and Senate Environmental Conservation Committee Chairman Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo.