Assemblyman Phil Ramos (D-Brentwood) announced that he helped pass a package of environmental legislation in recognition of Earth Day – April 22. The measures increase protections from pollution, promote environmental justice and protect consumers from dangerous chemicals.
“Protecting our environment is vital to the future of our state,” said Ramos. “As the federal administration seeks to roll back regulations, it’s more important than ever that we act as a state to ensure all New York families and their children can live happy, healthy lives.”
Concerns about pollution hit close to home in Ramos’ district as the cleanup of Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood, which had been closed since the discovery of illegal dumping in 2014, was only just recently completed.1 Assemblyman Ramos continues his call for a full investigation to hold those responsible accountable.
“It’s an absolute travesty that the cleanup of Roberto Clemente Park has taken so long and that the responsible parties have not been compelled to pay restitution to our community. I’ll continue advocating for Brentwood on this issue, and I won’t rest until justice is served,” said Ramos.
Historically, low-income communities and diverse communities have been disproportionately chosen for projects with adverse environmental impacts, which unfairly burdens residents with health risks and pollution. Further, areas with existing environmental concerns are frequently chosen for new projects to avoid contaminating pristine areas.
To combat this injustice, the Assembly legislation includes a measure that requires the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to publish a list of “high local environmental impact zones” and consider various factors that contribute to an area’s environmental health so that the same communities aren’t overburdened time and again (A.1862).
“Diverse communities have gotten the short end of the stick for too long, and it’s time that we did something to change that. This bill seeks to correct historic injustices and ensure that the same communities aren’t continuously chosen for damaging projects,” said Ramos.
The Assembly legislation also grants the DEC regulatory authority over freshwater wetlands of one acre or more in size to protect these vital water systems (A.6282). Wetlands act as natural water filters and can help prevent flooding during storms. Current statutes only grant the DEC this authority for mapped wetlands that are 12.4 acres or more.
In recent years, there have been a multitude of crude oil spills due to railway accidents, which can result in fatalities and irreparably harm the environment.2 To address this critical issue, the Assembly passed a bill to institute financial surety measures for owners of crude oil storage facilities, vessels and railroads (A.1773). These measures will ensure that companies that transport crude oil through our communities can respond to a spill effectively and efficiently, noted Ramos.
The Assembly package also includes a measure to amend the state constitution to include the right to clean air and water and a healthy environment (A.6279).
“All New Yorkers have the right to live in a clean, healthy environment,” said Ramos. “This will help ensure that these basic needs are never a luxury reserved for the privileged and the lucky.”
The Assembly’s Earth Day legislative package also included additional measures to ensure mercury-added lamps don’t contain excessive amounts of mercury (A.2875) and creates a battery recycling program for consumers in New York State, reducing the need for mining (A.6280).
These measures will help protect consumers from hazardous chemicals while promoting sustainability, noted Ramos.