It's good to be green

Originally published in Newsday on August 29, 2019.

This year's state legislative session was generally considered to be a strong one for the environment, with Long Islanders playing a starring role. Both of those points were underscored by the 2019 environmental scorecard released this week by the New York League of Conservation Voters.

Sixty-five lawmakers earned perfect scores of 100, including 26 in the State Senate and 39 in the Assembly. Singled out by the advocacy group were Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) and Assemb. Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), who were dubbed "Environmental Champions." 

Each lawmaker chairs his chamber's environmental conservation committee, and was instrumental in working with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to pass landmark climate change legislation that requires that New York get 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2040, and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 including an 85 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The duo also collaborated on bills to ban offshore drilling and 1,4-dioxane in common household products, protect children from toxic chemicals, and prevent overfishing of menhaden.

Not that the NYLCV intends to let the two legislators rest on their laurels. "We’re sure that with Senator Kaminsky and Assemblyman Englebright chairing these committees, next year will be another banner year for the environment," the group wrote in its report.

The league evaluated lawmakers based on their votes on 16 bills, including a congestion pricing plan for New York City, a measure that requires paint manufacturers to accept unused paint from consumers for recycling or safe disposal, and legislation that extends the statute of limitations for public water suppliers to sue polluters for the cost of cleaning contaminated water, the latter sponsored by Long Islanders Sen. James Gaughran (D-Northport) and Assemb. Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor).

All six Long Island senators —- Kaminsky, Gaughran, Anna Kaplan, John Brooks, Kevin Thomas and Monica Martinez, all of whom are Democrats — earned perfect scores, a stark change from the days when the all-Republican contingent rarely if ever had even one. In the Assembly, the only Long Islander other than Thiele to finish with a 100 was Democrat Anthony D'Urso of Port Washington.

The lowest Long Island scores in each chamber were posted by Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan (56) and GOP Assemb. Andrew Garbarino (44).

As for next year, when the NYLCV pronounces that "the State Legislature had the best session for the environment in living memory," what can you do for an encore?