The Business Council of NYS, Inc. opposes adoption of this bill that, among other things, would impose a state-level ban on the sale of products to which any level of mercury has been added during the manufacturing process.
The Business Council is opposed to the imposition of state-level product bans. The product ban included in this bill would apply to a wide range of products, including energy-efficient fluorescent lights, medical diagnostic equipment, batteries, computers and other electronic products. Many of these products are currently manufactured in New York State. We also question the need for this draconian measure. Over the past decade, industry efforts have significantly reduced the use of mercury in products like fluorescent lights, batteries and computers. These reductions in the use of mercury in the manufacturing process reduce the potential for the release of mercury through in-use breakage and the disposal of products.
If there is an agreement that more needs to be done to remove mercury from the waste stream, the Legislature should consider programs and incentives that promote the source-separation and recycling of mercury-containing products. Since products affected by this bill contain widely varying amounts of mercury, any such programs should have an initial emphasis on products that contain significant amounts of mercury. And rather than imposing collection and recycling requirements on each and every product manufacturer, the state should promote regional or state-wide approaches to source separation and recycling.
It should be noted that other regulatory actions at the federal and state level also will result in lower emissions of mercury to the environment. For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has adopted new air emission standards for solid waste incinerators that are expected to reduce mercury emissions by 90 percent. And, and in response to the federal Great Lakes Critical Programs Act, the Department of Environmental Conservation has adopted significantly lower water quality standards for mercury (0.7 parts per billion.)
In addition to the proposed product ban, The Business Council has concerns with other specific provisions of this bill.
- The product labeling provisions of this bill will impose significant costs on product manufactures, who may have to revise multiple production lines at multiple sites in order to comply. It should also be noted that a similar product labeling mandate in the State of Vermont was recently struck down in the federal courts as being an unconstitutional impediment to interstate commerce. Provision of point-of-sale information should be considered as an alternative to state-specific product labeling.
- As written, the prohibitions on the disposal of mercury-containing products could be enforced against waste transporters and disposal facilities operators that have no practical means to assure that mercury-containing products have not been included in the waste streams delivered to their sites.
- As mentioned above, the provision requiring new wastewater discharge limits that are "no greater than the [EPA's] detection limit" is unnecessary, considering the new state ambient standard that will help drive lower discharge limits in SPDES permits.
- The bill mandates that utilities remove all in-use mercury-containing gas pressure regulators within an unspecified time limited to be determined by the Department of Environmental Conservation. Since these units are already subject to ongoing replacement programs by the state's natural gas providers, we believe that the regulatory mandate is unnecessary. Further, this legislation requires a post-removal test for the presence of mercury. This provision would have the effect of imposing cleanup liability on the utility, even if the equipment removal process was not the source of trace levels of mercury contamination.
The Business Council appreciates the sponsor's concern regarding the reduction of mercury releases to the environment. As discussed above, The Business Council does not believe that the provisions of A.5932 represent a necessary or cost-effective tool to achieve that goal. For these reasons, The Business Council respectfully opposes adoption of A.5932.