With the start of a new legislative session and the Democratic takeover of the State Senate at the beginning of 2019, one thing it means is that I will no longer be serving as the Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee.
This assignment has been a highlight of my legislative service, one that I have truly valued since 2015, most of all because the past several years are widely regarded as one of New York State’s most productive eras in environmental conservation. A fully funded Environmental Protection Fund. The establishment of the Water Quality Infrastructure Improvement Act and the largest investment we have ever made in water quality. Combatting invasive species and, this year, harmful algal blooms. Habitat preservation. The list of achievements goes on and on, however I will just say that it has been a privilege to play a part in helping advance a better and stronger short- and long-term future for environmental conservation and protection regionally and statewide.
In a legislative context, my official role changes beginning in the New Year. My commitment and priorities do not.
For example, in my capacity as the Environmental Conservation Committee chair, the Senate has consistently approved, with strong bipartisan support, legislation I sponsor to enact the “Paint Stewardship Program” and the “Solar Panel Collection Act.” Each of these measures have failed to make it through the state Assembly, however I will reintroduce them again next year and continue to fight for their enactment. They remain incredibly important.
The “Solar Panel Collection Act” would establish, working together with the solar panel manufacturing industry, a solar panel recycling and disposal program to facilitate the collection and recycling of out-of-service solar panels. Manufacturers would finance the program.
As New York State continues to move aggressively forward on developing and utilizing renewable energy — and we absolutely should — the bases need to be covered. This includes staying ahead of the potential need to collect and properly dispose of or recycle out-of-service solar panels. This legislation offers a commonsense, proactive, economically, and environmentally sound approach to managing photovoltaic waste and keeping it out of landfills.
Likewise, the establishment of an industry-sponsored “Paint Stewardship Program” would reduce a costly burden on local governments and local taxpayers currently responsible for collecting and disposing of most post-consumer, unused paint. The New York State Association of Counties, among other supporters, states that the legislation would create local jobs, provide fiscal relief to local property taxpayers, and encourage the environmentally sound recycling and disposal of unused paint in New York State.
The national Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) estimates that nearly 4 million gallons of paint go unused each year in New York State — with the costs of collecting and managing the paint’s disposal mostly falling on local governments to the tune of $25 million annually. Paint stewardship laws been enacted in eight states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont) and Washington D.C. According to the PSI, these laws have already resulted in more than $69 million in taxpayer savings, created over 200 jobs, and led to the recycling of over 17 million gallons of high quality paint.
Each of the above initiatives is an example of how government and industry can work together to implement effective environmental policies and programs. Seeking common ground and cooperation, rather than government cramming unreasonable demands down the throat of industry, can help give New York State a more business friendly environment and actually result in better, more workable laws. Working together will go a long ways on reaching an end-result on other important issues that would benefit our state fiscally, economically, and environmentally.