New York State’s Legislative Session came to a close June 21st and with it came environmental victories but the work of Audubon New York, our members, and our partners will continue to be crucial as we address New York’s most pressing environmental concerns.
Preserving our state’s open spaces, encouraging sustainable land management and protecting important habitat and water resources for birds, people and communities is critical to maintaining the quality of New York’s natural resources for generations to come. We look forward to continuing working with the Governor and our legislative leaders to build on the momentum from this year.
Here’s a recap of Audubon New York’s 2017 legislative agenda for 2017 and the progress that was made this session:
- State passage of $2.5 Billion Water Infrastructure implementation language, allowing for the disbursement of state money to a variety of water infrastructure and resource protection measures, including wastewater and drinking water grants, water quality projects, and source water protection.
- The passage of legislation to better enable the state to protect the Hudson River from new, and potentially habitat damaging, oil tanker and barge anchorages. The legislation sponsored by Senator Sue Serino and Assembly member Didi Barrett, was in response to federal efforts to designate additional anchorage sites along the Hudson River to support the growth of oil transportation. Under the legislation, the state would develop specific conditions and rules under which petroleum bearing vessels may enter or move upon the navigable waters of the Hudson River. Since the passage of this legislation, the U.S. Coast Guard has suspended future rulemaking decisions on the Hudson River anchorages proposal, which Audubon New York publically opposed back in December.
Issues for 2018:
- State passage of legislation to block New York City’s efforts to institute a small fee on plastic bags. The bill, which was sponsored by Senator Simcha Felder and Assembly member Michael Cusick and signed into law by the Governor earlier this year, puts a one-year moratorium on the adoption or implementation of any local law that charges a fee on carry out single use bags. In response to this legislation, the Governor has established a taskforce which is working to identify a solution to the overuse of plastic bags. Once the moratorium is lifted, the Governor has indicated an interest in purposing statewide legislation which would ban and/or establish a fee for single use bags- an effort Audubon New York is supportive of.
Several of the key initiatives which we advocated for will remain priorities in the year ahead. We will continue collaborating with our partners and members to advocate for progress on these important environmental and conservation policies in the next budget and legislative cycle. These policies include:
- Empire Forest for the Future- an initiative included in Governor Cuomo’s 2017 State of the State which aims to encourage sustainable forestry management on privately held lands by establishing a grant matching program as well as fixes to existing tax credit programs to reduce burdens on taxing jurisdictions while creating a new property tax break for smaller landowners who comply with sustainable management forestry practices. Unfortunately, this initiative did not receive funding in the budget, nor did it advance through legislation. Audubon New York has established a large coalition representing both business, community and environment interests, which will work diligently over the coming months to advocate for this initiatives funding and implementation.
- Washington County Land Taxation Bill- Sponsored by Senator Betty Little and Assembly member Carrie Woerner, this bill makes state conservation lands in the town of Argyle, Ft. Edward and Kingsbury, in the county of Washington, subject to taxation for all purposes. This legislation is of great importance to Audubon New York, as these towns hold many important grassland habitats which should be conserved without local municipalities suffering from lost tax revenues when land is sold to the state. This legislation passed the Senate but did not advance in the Assembly. Audubon New York will continue to lead efforts to conserve important grassland habitats while making municipalities whole.
- Solar Sanctuaries- Sponsored by Senator Patty Ritchie and Assembly member William Magee, the bill establishes a standard for pollinator-friendly solar, encouraging the planting of native grasses and wildflowers in and around new solar PV facilities. The bill didn’t advance this legislative session, however, progress is being made through outreach and education with the private sector, as developers are choosing to implement cost-effective pollinator-friendly practices on ground-mounted solar sites.