Government Affairs Albany UpdateFebruary 25, 2005
Staff Contact: Ken Pokalsky
“Vapor intrusion” - indoor air impacts resulting from contaminated soils and/or groundwater - is a rapidly emerging issue in the environmental arena, and could have significant impacts on the business community as the state moves to investigation and require abatement for affected residential, commercial and industrial buildings.
The state Departments of Health and Environmental Conservation have issued for public comment their draft technical guidance for responding to “vapor intrusion” sites. A notice was published in this week's Environmental Notice Bulletin, and is available online at:
The guidance document itself is available on the DOH web site:
This guidance document proposed detailed methodologies for investigating sites for potential vapor intrusion impacts, and describes mitigation measures that in some cases will be required by the state. It also covers related topics, such as requirements for community outreach at these sites.
Key provisions include the following:
- The state defines “occupational exposure” as those resulting from “current commercial and industrial processes within the building,” and asserts jurisdiction over indoor air exposures in occupational settings where exposures are due to vapor intrusion.
- It references specific “guidance values” established by Department of Health that will be used to trigger indoor air mitigation requirements for certain substances (TCE, PCE and TCA).
- It suggests that the state may pursue mitigation of any indoor air impacts above “background” levels; specifically, it states that “reasonable and practical actions should be taken to reduce exposures when indoor air levels are above background, even when they are below the guideline... the goal of the [state's] recommended actions is to reduce chemical levels in indoor air to as close to background as practical.”
The Business Council has already raised objections with the state regarding OSHA preemption regarding occupational exposures, irrespective of the source of such exposures. We have also questioned both the technical and procedural methodologies employed by the state in setting its cleanup “guidance” values.
The public comment period extends through April 23, 2005. The Business Council's Environment Committee has an active Vapor Intrusion Work Group that will be reviewing and commenting on this proposal. Participation is open to all Business Council member firms.
Staff Contact: Ken Pokalsky
The Assembly's broad Lobbying Act reform bill is back on the Assembly Governmental Operations Committee agenda for next Tuesday. The bill, now in a "B" print, has been modified from the version that was pulled from the Gov't Ops agenda several weeks ago. However, the key feature of this legislation – a significant broadening of the state's Lobbying Act – remains the same.
Under this bill, the registration, reporting and other requirements of the state's Lobbying Act would apply to:
- state legislative and gubernatorial action on bills.
- adoption of executive orders.
- adoption, rejection, or implementation of any rule or regulation by a state agency.
- the outcome of any rate making proceeding by a state agency.
- any action or determination by a public official, a municipal official, the state legislature or the unified court system related to the award of any contract pertaining to goods, services, public works or real property.
- actions by a public official or a municipal officer pertaining to the approval, disapproval or implementation of any tribal-state compacts, memoranda of understanding, or any other tribal-state agreements and any state actions related to Class III gaming.
- the passage, defeat or implementation of any local law, ordinance, resolution, or regulation by any municipality or subdivision thereof.
- any rate making proceeding by any municipality or subdivision thereof.
The bill also raises the applicability threshold of the Lobbying Act. Effective beginning with calendar year 2006, the act would apply to lobbyists that incur or receive combined compensation and expenses greater than $5000, compared with the current $2000 per year threshold. It also states that for annual registrations, these financial thresholds apply separately, rather than cumulatively, for state and municipal lobbying efforts.
The Business Council continues to oppose this legislation for its excessive expansion of its definition of "lobbying." For example, by including the "implementation" of state and municipal regulations, this bill could extend the Lobbying Act to a wide range of permitting, project approval and other routine interactions between businesses and regulatory agencies.
The Assembly version of this bill is back on the Assembly Insurance Committee agenda for next Wednesday. The bill, A.2912 (Tonko), is the same as last year's version of the expensive health insurance mandate that will further drive up health care costs and increase the number of uninsured New Yorkers if passed.
The bill would require that every insurance policy in the state provide full coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders, including nervous disorders, emotional disorders, and dependency on alcohol or other drugs. The bill would also mandate that policies impose no limits on the coverage of mental disorders that are not imposed on physical disorders.
Passing this new mandate would increase premiums by another 3 percent, according to a study by the Employer Alliance for Affordable Health Care.
The Business Council will continue to oppose this bill because it is cost-prohibitive for most businesses. Employers in the state will face the very real possibility of dropping coverage or passing the cost along to employers as rates continue to rise. As health insurance becomes more expensive, New Yorkers drop out of insurance plans because the cost, even when shared with their employer, is too high.