The New York State Legislature concluded its annual session early in the morning on June 21st, 2018, and we wanted to provide you with an update on Audubon New York’s legislative priorities, as well as other legislation of interest. The following overview summarizes some of the bills that were introduced to the Environmental Conservation, Agriculture, and Energy committees and passed during the 2018 legislative session.
Washington County Grasslands (S.1672 Little / A.6759 Woerner): Washington County contains the last remaining large, contiguous grasslands in eastern New York, which provides important habitat for the Short-eared Owl, Northern Harrier, Upland Sandpiper, and other at-risk grasslands birds. The State has been working to protect this unique area by purchasing critical habitat and seeking conservation easements from private landowners, and this legislation will allow those purchases to proceed without impacting the tax rolls of local municipalities. This bill has passed both houses, but has not yet been sent to the Governor.*
Offshore Drilling (A.9819 Englebright / S.8017 LaValle; A.10608 Englebright): The Governor and Legislature advanced legislation that would have banned offshore drilling in New York State’s marine and coastal districts. New York State’s marine and coastal ecosystems are critically important to the survival of hundreds of bird species, including at-risk species like the Red Knot, Piping Plover, American Oystercatcher, and Roseate Tern. The White House plan to vastly expand offshore drilling would expose these important species’ habitat to the potential dangers of oil and natural gas drilling. This bill passed the Assembly, but stalled in the Senate.*
Protection of Menhaden (A.10506-A Englebright / S.8570 LaValle): Atlantic Menhaden is a small species of forage fish that has been the subject of recovery efforts after chronic overfishing decimated their numbers. These fish are critical to the health of estuary ecosystems along the Atlantic seaboard and are an important part of the marine food web; especially for many coastal and marine birds including the Brown Pelican, Bald Eagle, Osprey, Common Loon, Cormorant, terns, gannets, and gulls. This bill would ban the use of purse seines for the taking of Menhaden, which will ensure that this population can continue to recover while allowing for the use of sustainable fishing methods that benefit local fisherman. This bill passed the Assembly, but stalled in the Senate. *
Pollinator Protection Guidelines (S.6339-A Ritchie / A.8083-A Magee): This bill would establish guidelines for property owners who wish to claim that either their property or commercial enterprise provides benefits to pollinators. These guidelines would include, but not be limited to, maintaining native perennial vegetation, using environmentally-friendly management practices, limiting the use of pesticides, and maintaining biodiversity. This bill has passed both houses, but has not yet been sent to the Governor.
Affordable Residential Green Building (S.7321 Griffo / A.8922 Rosenthal): This bill would require the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) to provide technical assistance, industry standards, and financing for the construction of affordable residential green buildings. NYSERDA would also be required to prepare a report that would review the benefits of providing financial incentives for the construction of such buildings. This bill has passed both houses, but has not yet been sent to the Governor.
Agricultural and Farmland Protections (A.10301-B Barrett / S.8362-A Ritchie): This bill would establish the Working Farm Protection Act. This act would make ‘working farm easements’ eligible for financial assistance under the state’s Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program. Such easements would require farmers to sell their lands to another working farmer at the fair market value for such property. These easements are intended to promote the conservation of farmland, while also easing the financial hurdles of beginning or expanding farming operations. This bill has passed both houses, but has not yet been sent to the Governor.
Water Pollution Control (S.7953 O’Mara / A.10611 Stern): This bill provides an extension to the Environmental Facilities Corporation’s existing authority to provide financial assistance to municipalities to construct and upgrade eligible water pollution control projects through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. This bill has passed both houses, but has not yet been sent to the Governor.
Penalties and Enforcement in Long Island Pine Barrens (S.6353 LaValle / A.11112 Englebright): This bill would add the Suffolk County district attorney to the list of entities that can take action against individuals who violate the Long Island Pine Barrens Maritime Reserve Act. Additionally, the bill would allow police and peace officers to impound any all-terrain vehicle seized under the provisions of the act. This bill has passed both houses, but has not yet been sent to the Governor.
Peconic Bay Heritage Area (A.9891 Thiele / S.7762 LaValle): This bill would establish the Peconic Bay Region as a state heritage area, and would include the towns of East Hampton, Riverhead, Shelter Island, Southampton, and Southold. Heritage areas seek to preserve and develop areas that have special significance to New York State. This bill has passed both houses, but has not yet been sent to the Governor.
Albany Pine Bush Commission (S.8596 Amedore / A.11039 (Fahy): This bill would give the Albany Pine Bush Commission the explicit authority to acquire real property in the Albany Pine Bush preserve. Currently, a property owner must dedicate the land to the preserve, which can present barriers to the acquisition of real property that is put up for public sale as another entity must purchase the land and then dedicate it to the Commission. This bill has passed both houses, but has not yet been sent to the Governor.
*Audubon New York issued a memo in support of this legislation.
If you need any additional information on any of these items above, please contact Erin McGrath at email@example.com or 518-869-9731.