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Legislative Memo

BILL:

A.8461 (Grannis @ request of the Attorney General)

Support

SUBJECT:

Criminal Penalties

 

DATE:

February 20, 2004

 

The Business Council opposes this legislation, which would significantly elevate existing strict criminal liability provisions of the Environmental Conservation Law for the failure to report chemical spills. Under the state's chemical bulk storage program, releases that exceed a "reportable quantity," or "RQ," must be reported to the Department of Environmental Conservation within two hours of the release. This spill reporting rule covers more than one thousand separate chemicals and compounds, with a significant number of RQs set as low as one pound of the regulated substance. DEC regulations even require the reporting of releases below RQ levels if such spills are likely to result in a significant health, safety or environmental risk.

The Business Council believes that these new criminal enforcement provisions are inappropriate for a number of reasons:

In summary, if increased criminal penalties are truly needed to provide a more effective deterrent against violations of the state's chemical spill reporting law, they must be based on criminal behavior as defined in the Penal Law.

However, The Business Council believes that the strict misdemeanor and felony provisions of A.8461 are both inappropriate and unnecessary, and would subject persons acting in good faith in response to a chemical spill to significant criminal sanctions. For these reasons, The Business Council opposes adoption of A.8461.