Senate Passes New Legislation To Improve Environmental Justice

Majority Press

March 3, 2021

(Albany, NY)  The Senate Democratic Majority today will advance landmark legislation to protect low-income communities and communities of color from bearing unfair and unsafe pollution burdens. This legislation builds on protections previously passed as part of the Climate Leadership And Community Protection Act to address and mitigate the effects of climate change in ways that protect environmental justice communities. This legislative package requires environmental impact statements for projects that may impact minority or economically distressed communities and prohibits approval of projects that may cause disproportionate pollution impacts to those communities; reduces emissions of toxic air pollutants from petroleum storage tanks; requires DEC to establish new standards for toxic air pollutants and for lead; requires that energy efficiency projects and investments benefit environmental justice communities; requires permit applicants for projects that may impact an environmental justice community to prepare and implement a public participation plan;  requires fossil-fuel burning peaker power plants in environmental justice communities to submit a plan to DEC for converting to renewable power generation, and requires phased-in use of bioheating fuel oil in buildings to reduce air pollution. 

“New York continues to lead the nation in promoting environmental justice,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “This legislative package provides much-needed and long-overdue environmental and public health protections to low-income communities and communities of color. I am proud to be sponsoring legislation in this package that will require an environmental impact statement for projects that may impact already overburdened minority communities or economically distressed areas that very often bear the burden of concentrated pollution.”  

Bill Sponsor and Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, Senator Todd Kaminsky, said, “Today's package of bills will protect our environmental justice communities by mitigating toxic pollution, stemming hazardous lead contamination and replacing aging, dirty peaker plants with renewable sources of energy. I thank Senator Stewart-Cousins for her leadership on this crucial issue, which is vital to the health and wellbeing of our State and its residents — and future generations to come."

The legislation being passed by the Senate includes: 

  • Environmental Impact Statements: This bill, S.1031B, sponsored by Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, requires an environmental impact statement (EIS) for projects that may affect minority or economically distressed communities, and prohibits approval of projects that cause or contribute to a disproportionate pollution burden in those communities. 
  • Bioheating Fuel Oil:  This bill, S.3321, sponsored by Senator Todd Kaminsky, establishes phased-in statewide requirements for minimum percentages of less polluting biodiesel and/or renewable hydrocarbon diesel that must be present in heating oil used in buildings.
  • Reduce Toxic Air Pollutants: This bill, S.841, sponsored by Senator Alessandra Biaggi, requires above-ground petroleum storage tanks at major facilities to be painted light colors to reduce emissions of toxic air pollutants. 
  • New Standards For Lead: This bill, S.914, sponsored by Senator Brian Benjamin, requires DEC to establish standards for lead in soils, on interior home surfaces, and in ambient air.
  • Equitable Investment in Energy Efficiency: This bill, S.3126A, sponsored by Senator Kevin Parker, requires the hiring and training for energy efficiency programs from  priority populations and  environmental justice communities and requires the investment of energy efficiency funding in environmental justice communities.
  • Public Participation Plan: This bill, S.3211A, sponsored by Senator Jessica Ramos, requires applicants for major projects located in or adjacent to an environmental justice community to prepare and implement an enhanced public participation plan which meets enhanced notice and public participation requirements.
  • New Standards for Toxic Air Pollutants: This bill, S.4371B, sponsored by Senator Alessandra Biaggi, requires DEC to promulgate air quality standards for seven toxic air pollutants and requires major sources of toxic air pollutants located in or near environmental justice communities to install fence line monitoring systems.
  • Pollution Justice Act of 2021: This bill, S.4378A, sponsored by Senator Jabari Brisport, requires fossil-fuel burning  power plants located in or near environmental justice communities and which operate only during periods of peak electricity demand to convert to renewable energy. 


Bill Sponsor, Senator Brian Benjamin, said, "As with all environmental issues, lead poisoning and contamination impacts our vulnerable populations the most. We cannot sit by and allow our children, our senior citizens, and our state’s minority groups to be put at risk any longer. S914 will bring justice for those communities, and I am proud to have worked with my neighbors at Park West Village to have brought it to the floor today.”

Bill Sponsor, Senator Alessandra Biaggi said, "Residents in the Bronx –– especially in low income communities and communities of color –– have been breathing in harmful air pollutants for years. Decades of environmental racism have led to high asthma rates and other illnesses. All New Yorkers deserve to breathe clean and safe air in their neighborhood. I am proud to sponsor legislation to better protect New Yorkers from air borne pollutants, and join my colleagues in passing this package of legislation to center the needs of environmental justice communities."

Bill Sponsor, Senator Jabari Brisport said, "Privately owned gas-powered plants known as "peaker plants" have been scattered throughout disadvantaged communities in New York City. These older and dirtier peaker plants generate profits for private investors as they pollute our neighborhoods and damage our health. Converting these peaker plants to clean, renewable energy and battery systems is an important step towards a healthier, more equitable future for all of us — as are all of the bills in this legislative package."

Bill Sponsor, Senator Kevin Parker said, “It’s way past due for us to seriously address the issues of Environmental Justice in African-American and Latino communities in our state.   The bills passed today will begin the process of addressing both the ecological responsibilities and economic opportunities created in this package. My bill in particular will provide equity and open employment options for Black and Brown communities most likely to be affected by this State's increased climate-related initiatives. As the Chair of the Energy and a Telecommunications Committee I am proud that we have advanced this legislation and I look forward to continuing to advocate on environmental justice issues.” 

Bill Sponsor, Senator Jessica Ramos said “If New York State wants to remain a national leader in environmental policy, we need to change the law so those communities closest to the pain are the first stakeholders considered so we can stop any company that comes to burn more gas and oil. The New York State Senate is taking the first step to codify a community engagement process by passing my bill, S3211A, that would require meaningful community input and transparency from companies trying to site new energy projects across the state.”

Deputy Majority Leader Micheal Gianaris said, “For too long, communities in need have suffered a larger burden for flawed environmental policies. Protecting our environment is crucial not only to ensure a livable planet but also to achieve greater social and economic justice.” 

Senator Jamaal Bailey said, “Environmental justice has been a growing issue of concern across the state. We have seen the detrimental and long lasting effects that air pollution and toxic chemicals can have on our residents. Additionally, for far too long, communities of color have borne the brunt of environmental racism. This legislative package targets these concerns and ensures that we have an increase in public participation when determining new projects that could have an environmental impact. I would like to thank Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and my colleagues who sponsored the bills included in this crucial package.”

Senator Jeremy Cooney said, “Throughout the history of New York, disenfranchised communities have been negatively impacted by environmental racism. We have seen this firsthand in Rochester with the detrimental effects of manufacturing pollution in the City, as well as the flooding/pollution in Lake Ontario. We hold a responsibility to leave a more sustainable and equitable world for future generations. To do this, we need to take immediate action. This package will move us closer to advancing the cause of environmental justice and a greener New York.”

Senator Pete Harckham said, “To achieve real environmental justice in New York, our communities need equitable protections. These bills will reduce pollution and create energy-related efficiencies that will provide myriad health benefits to disproportionately impacted residents.”

Senator Michelle Hinchey said, “For far too long, our low-income and minority residents have borne the brunt of the climate crisis and to this day are still fighting for their basic human rights to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and live safe, healthy lives. I’m proud to see our laws in New York move closer to a clean energy future that prioritizes environmental justice communities and key CLCPA goals. We are centering equity across all of our work, and this legislative package is a vital step to ensure that our fight for a sustainable planet leaves no one behind.”

Senator Brad Hoylman said, "The health risks posed to New Yorkers by pollution are not distributed equally. A report from the Union of Concerned Scientists shows Latinx, Black and Asian American New Yorkers disproportionately live in areas with higher pollution rates. As the COVID-19 pandemic laid bare, these disparities in pollution exposure can be deadly. This legislative package will reduce toxic air pollutants, give the environmental justice community a greater voice on major projects in their areas, and require environmental impact statements for projects that impact minority and economically distressed areas. I’m deeply grateful Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins is prioritizing the environmental justice movement and giving a voice to those most at risk from climate change."

Senator Robert Jackson said, “For too long, Black and Brown and poor communities have had their concerns about environmental discrimination ignored in our state’s planning processes and regulations. Environmental justice involves the struggle to ensure a clean and healthful environment for those who have long lived, worked, and played closest to pollution sources. Today I am proud to support this legislative package that moves us close to environmental justice for all. I look forward to working with all my colleagues to build on this success with even broader legislation to address the ongoing failures of our planning processes to deliver justice for our communities.”

Senator Liz Krueger said,  “By now it is clear that New York State must take swift, bold action to address environmental crises that confront us on all sides, from climate change to waste disposal to toxic water and air pollution. But as we seek to make progress on these issues, we must remember that some New Yorkers have been forced to bear a disproportionate share of the burden. This package of bills takes important steps toward protecting and restoring historically burdened communities, and ensuring that our state is embracing not only environmental sustainability, but also environmental justice.”

Senator John Liu said, "Environmental sustainability and justice have been long standing goals and these bills bring New York closer. It is possible to protect our environment and climate while promoting long-term economic growth and business opportunity."

Senator Rachel May said, "Clean air, clean water, lead-free homes, and a sustainable climate should not be luxuries for the few. The environmental justice legislative package advanced today by our Majority Conference will move us closer to making them the standard for all New Yorkers, and I stand proudly with my colleagues in support of each of these bills."

Senator John Mannion said, “As a high school science teacher I instilled in my students the importance of maintaining our environment and the impact pollutants have on all of us. As a legislator, I’m proud to support policies that will help ensure clean air and water and raise the bar on statewide environmental protections."

Senator Roxanne J. Persaud said, “Environmental justice issues have been adversely affecting minority communities for centuries. Emissions of air pollution toxins and Lead have contributed to many health problems for minority communities due to their location and proximity to air pollution sources. This comprehensive legislation package is a step in the right direction to address the injustices experienced by minority communities. I thank Majority Leader Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins and my colleagues who have sponsored legislation to improve our communities' environmental justice and pollution issues.”  

Senator Sean Ryan said, “Minority and economically distressed communities have long been disproportionately subjected to environmental pollution. This package of legislation is a major step forward in cleaning up these communities and protecting them for generations to come. Western New Yorkers live with the legacy of environmental contamination, and despite our significant achievements in cleaning up our land, water, and air, far too many communities continue to face pollution and environmental hazards. With these environmental justice efforts, we will hold industries accountable and set important standards to reduce pollution in every corner of New York.” 

Senator Julia Salazar said, “Climate change and environmental destruction disproportionately harms low-income communities and working people, even though these communities have contributed the least in the fueling of the climate crisis. As we seek to recover from years of harmful environmental policy and inaction at the federal level, state legislatures must lead the fight for climate justice. Codifying this environmental justice legislation is the action our state must take to lead the nation in the fight for climate justice.”

Senator Luis R. Sepúlveda said, "Climate change has disproportionately impacted low-income and communities of color. To move towards a healthier, just, and sustainable future, this package of legislation is vital in addressing inequities in pollution burdened communities and investing in renewable alternatives to decrease hazardous pollutants harmful to public health and the environment. It also seeks to reduce toxic air contaminants emissions and fortify essential public participation in the environmental justice community for major projects, which will help measure their environmental impact in New York State."

Senator José M. Serrano said, "Neighborhoods like those I represent in the Bronx and East Harlem have some of the highest rates of asthma in the country, largely due to environmental disparities. The common sense policies in this legislative package are a significant step toward protecting communities disproportionately burdened by high-risk environmental factors. Every New Yorker deserves the right to breathe clean air, and today's actions bring us closer to our environmental justice goals."

Senator Toby Ann Stavisky said, “Environmental injustice is one of the lesser spoken evils of racial and socioeconomic inequality across our state and country. The health impacts are real and often lasting. This legislation helps guard against unnecessary and harmful manmade hazards that endanger our environment and our communities. I applaud my colleagues in the Democratic Majority for passing this impactful legislation.”

Betta Broad, campaign director of New Yorkers for Clean Power, said, “This set of bills reflect the values of a new era in our society that actively protects our most vulnerable members from toxic pollution. We are inspired by the leadership of Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Senate Democrats who call on us to be better and do more, putting NY on a path towards a more just, healthier and greener future for all New Yorkers.”

Roger Downs, Conservation Director for the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter said, “The Sierra Club applauds the leadership and vision of Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and her Senate colleagues for bringing Environmental Justice issues to the forefront of New York’s climate fight. Passage of this impressive package of bills, which will remove persistent sources of pollution and illness from disadvantaged communities already struggling with a disproportionate burden of environmental degradation, is a recognition that we cannot truly solve our environmental crises if we do not address core issues of systemic racism and inequity.  The Senate’s actions today confirm that clean air and water are fundamental components of human dignity and shouldn’t be denied to anyone.”

Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director at Citizens Campaign for the Environment said, “The evidence is clear that low-income, disadvantaged communities are disproportionately burdened with poor air quality, exposure to toxic contaminants, and industrial pollution.Recognizing this prolonged injustice, New York is taking important steps forward to bring environmental justice to every community throughout our state. Protecting public health, and water and air quality in all communities of our state is a significant pathway for achieving racial equality.  We commend Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and leaders in the Senate for moving forward with this important package of legislation.”

David Hepinstall, Executive Director of Association for Energy Affordability, said, “We applaud Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and the Senate Majority for their ongoing efforts to create healthy, energy efficient homes in thriving neighborhoods with clean air. Building on NY’s nation-leading climate law, this legislative package would further important protections and investments in environmental justice communities.” 

Liz Moran, Environmental Policy Director for NYPIRG, said, "It is widely known that industrial facilities are often located in predominantly low-income communities and communities of color and have been for decades. Sadly, these are now the communities that bear the brunt of pollution and higher rates of illness, like asthma. As New York moves to achieve its critical climate goals, policies must be adopted to prioritize justice for these communities and end toxic practices. NYPIRG commends the Senate for passing this package of legislation and leading on climate and environmental justice issues."

Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters, said, "New York is leading on climate justice.  With this package of legislation, we'll have less pollution and fewer environmental contaminants, especially in communities that have been forced to bear a disproportionate burden of the effects of climate change and air pollution. We are pleased that the legislation will move us off dirty heating oil, tackle energy efficiency, and help prevent lead poisoning, some of our top priorities. We thank the State Senate, especially Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Environmental Conservation Chair Kaminsky, for their bold vision."

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