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Legislative Memo

T 518.465.7517

BILL:

A.471 (Brodsky)

Support

SUBJECT:

Siting of Environmental Facilities

 

DATE:

January 25, 2001

 

The Business Council opposes this legislation which is intended to address concerns regarding "inequitable" environmental impacts on minority and low income communities. We oppose it for several reasons:

It should also be recognized that the concerns addressed in this legislation are also being addressed by ongoing Administrative actions in New York State. For example:

Finally, this legislation is inconsistent with the environmental justice policy being developed and implemented by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. For example, the EPA Region 2 office has recently issued an interim approach to assessing environmental justice issues related to federal actions. While The Business Council does not fully support that interim policy, that policy makes clear that a finding of potential adverse impacts is necessary before mitigation measures are considered.

Considering these ongoing efforts, The Business Council believes that this legislative measure is unnecessary. Moreover, as mentioned above, and discussed in detail below, A.471 proposes a flawed approach to assessing potential environmental justice issues.

Existing Law - The State Environmental Quality Review Act, or SEQRA, already requires that:

Under SEQRA, environmental impacts must be assessed and adverse impacts must be mitigated to the extent possible. In addition to these requirements under SEQRA, project sponsors must also meet the state's stringent air, water and waste management regulations. These requirements presently apply irrespective of the racial composition or economic status of the affected community.

Bill Summary - The key provision of A.471 would expand SEQRA assessments by requiring environmental impact statements to identify whether actions will "cause or increase a disproportionate and/or inequitable burden on those minority communities and/or economically distressed areas affected by the action." Importantly, neither of these two key terms, "disproportionate" and "inequitable," are defined in the bill.

Business Council Concerns - It is unclear what would constitute a "disproportionate" or "inequitable" burden under this proposal, and under what circumstances a facility would be required to mitigate impacts that may be "disproportionate" or "inequitable," but that do not pose a risk of adverse health or environmental impacts. In addition to increasing the time and costs involved in new development projects, this lack of clarity will inevitably result in significant additional litigation.

Two examples illustrate our concern:

Under these two scenarios, the new project will have some environmental impact because of increased emissions, but such impact will not pose a health or environmental threat.

However, since their impact can be described as "disproportionate" or "inequitable," (although not harmful), A.471 would require additional mitigation measures, or even lead to the project being disapproved. The provisions of A.471 are not necessary to address the actual or potential effects on public health or the environment - SEQRA already requires mitigation of these adverse effects, regardless of the nature of the effected community. The provisions of A.471 also run counter to ongoing state efforts to remediate and redevelop industrial sites within economically distressed areas.

For these reasons, The Business Council opposes the approval of this legislation.