By Jaclyn Bruntfield
A scorecard released on June 8 by EPL/Environmental Advocates indicates that the vast majority of New York's senators aren't doing enough to support legislation that would protect the environment.
The preliminary scorecard tracked state senator's voting records on bills this session that would have an effect on air, land and water quality, as well as wildlife and public health. A complete Voters' Guide scorecard, including Assembly member rankings, is set to be released this fall.
The rankings were divided on partisan lines, with Democrats scoring an average of 41 and Republicans at an average of 24.
Four Democrat senators--Thomas Duane, Mike Gianaris, Liz Krueger, and Jose Serrano--received a score of at least 60 percent. With a score of 67, Sen. Serrano scored the highest.
Senators Patrick Gallivan, Dean Skelos, Tom Libous and Jack Martins--all Republicans--tied for last place at 13 percent. Sen. Skelos is the majority leader in the Republican-led Senate and Sen. Libous is his deputy.
"For a report card they'd be proud to take home to their constituents, the State Senate needs to pass a few key bills to benefit New York's air, water, land and families," said David Gahl of EPL/Environmental Advocates. "Otherwise, the Senate needs to come back for summer school."
While not among the top four scorers, local Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer ranked seventh with a score of 57. Her offices did not immediately return requests for comment on the ranking.
EPL/Environmental Advocates designates five "Super Bills" that were introduced this session that would have significant positive impacts on the environment.
Sen. Oppenheimer sponsored one of the bills, The Global Warming Pollution Cap (S.2742,) with Sen. Tony Avella. The bill would mandate that the NYS Department of Environmental Protection establish greenhouse gas emissions limits from all sources in the state, with a maximum emission rate equal to that in 1990. By 2050, overall emissions would be capped at 80 percent below 1990 levels.
The bill was amended in May and sent back to the Senate's Environmental Conservation Committee. A similar bill (A.5346) was passed that month by the Assembly.
Sen. Oppenheimer has co-sponsored three of the other "Super Bills." They include the Water Withdrawal Permitting Program (S.3798,) which would require a DEC issued permit for anyone seeking to withdraw more than 100,000 gallons of water per day from sources in New York.
The Hazardous Waste Loophole for Fracking Fluid Disposal (S.4616) would update state laws that don't currently categorize hydraulic fracturing by-products as hazardous waste.
Also co-sponsored by Sen. Oppenheimer is the Complete Streets bill (S.5411/S.1332.) The legislation, would amend the state's highway laws to include safer travel and road infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists, thus encouraging modes of travel that generate less carbon. The bill notes that in 2009, 4,000 people were killed by motor vehicles in the U.S., 20 percent of whom were senior citizens.
The last EPL/Environmental Advocates "Super Bill" is the Solar Industry Development and Jobs Act (S.4178,) which would require state utility and energy service companies to purchase solar energy credits in order to spur industry job growth.
Sen. Oppenheimer is also sponsoring the New York State Environmental Sustainability Education Act (S.1571,) which would mandate that the DEC and the NYS Department of Education "establish a model program to guide the development, implementation and evaluation of a comprehensive environmental sustainability education program to be made available to public schools."
Depending on how the Senators vote on these bills and others that would affect the environment, their EPL/Environmental Scorecard rankings could change in the report issued this fall.