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Environment Committee Update:
State of the State 2018

January 5, 2018
Staff Contact: Darren Suarez

The following is a brief aggregation of Governor Cuomo’s 2018 State of the State initiatives related to environment matters. Very few of the proposed initiatives will require legislation (personal care products) and only a few may need regulatory changes (RGGI). The blurbs below are largely taken directly from the SOS and do not necessarily reflect the position of The Business Council or its members. After receiving input from membership, The Business Council will formulate an appropriate response to each initiative.

Personal Care Products

Governor Cuomo will propose legislation to require the manufacturers of personal care products sold in the State to make product ingredient information publicly available in a clear and easy to use web format. In addition, manufacturers will be required to list those chemical ingredients which have been identified by other state, federal or international jurisdictions as posing a hazard to human health. A centralized database of manufacturer disclosure websites will be maintained by New York in partnership with the Interstate Chemicals Clearinghouse. 

Bethpage Water

Governor Cuomo committed that in Nassau County, New York State will fast-track construction a remedial well system to fully contain and treat the plume of contamination at and protect the quality of drinking water on Long Island. The system will likely include at least 14 wells strategically located around the perimeter of the plume to prevent it from migrating further south and impacting additional communities. In addition, priority wells will be located within the plume to target hot spots of contamination. The well system will extract and treat the water using carbon filtration, air stripping technology, and ultraviolet light, as well as advanced oxidation to treat 1,4-dioxane and return treated water to the aquifer.  The State has committed to  fast-tracking the well construction in 2018 and using “all” legal tools at its disposal to hold the U.S. Navy and Northrop Grumman accountable for the construction and operation of the containment and treatment system. The full containment and treatment system is estimated to cost at least $150 million to construct.

Hudson River Remediation

Governor Cuomo and the Attorney General have pledged to sue the federal government if the EPA issues a certificate of completion at this time. New York is also prepared to withdraw from the 2002 Record of Decision (ROD) which guided the cleanup and removal of millions of tons of PCB-contaminated sediment from the Upper Hudson River. 

Algal Blooms

The State has developed a harmful algal blooms (HABs)outreach and monitoring programs led by Department of Environmental Conservation sampling ambient waters across the state and Department of Health sampling at regulated beaches and public water systems. The Governor has also directed actions to protect the public when blooms have impacted susceptible drinking water supplies, including investing $2 million towards the design, engineering, and construction of upgrades to the drinking water treatment systems in the City of Auburn and Town of Owasco in 2017.

This year, Governor Cuomo will implement a $65 million 4-point initiative to aggressively combat HABs in Upstate New York. Twelve priority lakes that are vulnerable to HABs and are critical sources of drinking water and vital tourism drivers were chosen as priority waterbodies because they represent a wide range of conditions and vulnerabilities and the lessons learned will be applied to other impacted waterbodies moving forward. Those lakes are:

The State's Water Quality Rapid Response Team will convene four Regional Summits to bring together nation-leading experts with Steering Committees of local stakeholders established for each lake. The Rapid Response Team, national experts, and local stakeholders will collaboratively develop Action Plans to identify contributing factors fueling HABs and the state will provide $500,000 per lake to develop immediate action plans to reduce sources of pollution that spark algal blooms. The state will provide nearly $60 million in grant funding to implement the Action Plans, including new monitoring and treatment technologies. 

ZEVs

Governor Cuomo will launch Charge NY 2.0 in 2018, which will drive the build-out of EV charging infrastructure and promote ZEV-capable roadways and destinations across New York. Under Charge NY 2.0, New York State will:

Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Facility

Governor Cuomo will direct over $20 million to launch Phase One of the wastewater system overhaul to complete comprehensive infrastructure and operational improvements at the Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Facility. The Governor's proposal also provides $500,000 to expedite two engineering studies that are evaluating both the plant's discharges and treatment systems, which are required by the new consent order with the Niagara Falls Water Board. The results of these studies will help guide and inform the $20 million Phase One investment.

RGGI

Governor Cuomo will direct the DEC to undertake a rule-making in 2018 to implement the 30 percent cap reduction of carbon dioxide and cover peaking units that collectively exceed RGGI's capacity threshold of 25 megawatts.

The Governor will also direct DEC to work with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to engage the Environmental Justice & Just Transition Working Group convened by the Governor in 2017, to ensure that Environmental Justice communities benefit equitably from investment of RGGI auction proceeds.

This year, DEC will also propose complementary reforms to reduce emissions of smog-forming pollutants from peaking units and will adopt regulations ending the use of coal in the state’s power plants by 2020. 

Federal Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment 

Governor Cuomo announced that the U.S. Climate Alliance will reconvene the Federal Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment to develop recommendations to navigate the challenges of climate change.  The following were members of the committee:

Resiliency

The Governor will direct the DEC to issue resiliency guidelines modeled after a federal order that was revoked, and further require that state funding for infrastructure projects consider resiliency criteria.  The DEC will update its maps of wetlands and coastal risk areas.  State agencies will also the implementation of individual adaptation plans based on the risks identified by the State Vulnerability Assessment funded by the Environmental Protection Fund. Additionally, the Department of State will recommend changes to the State Fire Prevention and Building Code that will increase climate resiliency. 

The State will provide financial support for state-of-the-art local resiliency plans to create a pipeline of projects to increase the flood resiliency of our communities by protecting streams, coasts and critical infrastructure - such as hospitals, transit systems, bridges, water and wastewater infrastructure, dams, culverts and levees, as well as homes and small businesses. Interagency response teams will also conduct at least 40 emergency flood response trainings in communities across New York annually.

HFC Emissions

Governor Cuomo will direct the DEC, NYSERDA, and the Department of State to develop a comprehensive strategy to reduce HFC emissions by incentivizing the use of climate-friendly alternatives. This effort will provide rebates to municipalities to replace or retrofit converting large cooling systems, like public ice rinks and school cafeterias, to safer alternative technologies. It will also develop new building codes to encourage the use of climate-friendly alternatives and provide free audits and technical assistance to help businesses identify opportunities to reduce emissions and costs. New York State will also work with fellow U.S. Climate Alliance member states to explore options for phasing out HFCs in alignment with the Paris Agreement and the Montreal Protocol. 

$130 Million in Volkswagon Settlement Proceeds

The DEC is working with other state agencies, authorities and stakeholders to develop a plan to achieve the greatest possible benefit for New York from the $127.7 million available to New York from the settlement of Volkswagen’s violation of the Clean Air Act. DEC, working with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the transportation agencies and authorities, will produce a plan early this year to support the transition of the transit system to electric or other advanced technologies, including the replacement of diesel transit buses across the state.

The plan will also include the replacement of old, high-emitting school buses that pollute the air in the vicinity of schools and freight trucks that operate in crowded urban areas, with particular benefits to environmental justice communities. All categories of investment will prioritize replacement of diesel vehicles with emission-free electric vehicles, stimulating the transformation to a low-carbon transportation system. Additionally, DEC will support electrification of airport equipment, repowering of tugs and ferries, and replacement of freight switcher locomotives that operate in the state’s urban switchyards. With this strategic, comprehensive plan, New York State will seek to invest all of the Volkswagen settlement funds over the next three years. 

Multistate Transportation Carbon Emissions Reduction Program

Governor Cuomo had directed NYSERDA, DEC and the Department of Transportation to develop policy approaches to reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector.  They will also coordinate with other states participating in the Transportation and Climate Initiative to explore potential regional policies and partnerships for states to work together in reducing transportation emissions.

Environmental Climate Justice Roadmap

Governor Cuomo has directed the DEC to work with the Environmental Justice and Just Transition Working Group of external stakeholders to identify actions to address the needs of the Environmental Justice communities, through a Climate Justice Road Map.

Darren Suarez | Director of Government Affairs
The Business Council of New York State, Inc.
111 Washington Avenue, Suite 400 | Albany, NY 12210
Tel. 518.465.7511 ext. 206| Fax 518.465.4389 
darren.suarez@bcnys.org