Senate Acts to Protect Environment and Empower Victims of Environmental Pollution & Discrimination

February 22, 2010

The New York State Senate today passed a package of bills strengthening environmental protections to create a cleaner, greener and healthier New York. The measures also underscore the Majority’s pledge to growing our state’s economy through fiscally and environmentally responsible legislation.

The environmental protection and “green” industry development bills provide equal protection for minority and disadvantaged communities in the development and enforcement of environmental policy; advance the practice of “net-metering”; and prohibit the charging of additional fees for the installation of energy efficient improvements.

Included in today’s package:

·         S4407 which would provide environmental justice to minority and disadvantaged communities by ensuring they are not saddled with an unfair share of incinerators, dumps, factories and other sources of pollution.

·         S3712 which will permit service charges on natural gas bills for the installation of capital improvements and fixtures to promote energy efficiency.

·         S6700 which would eliminate the peak load limitation on the size of non-residential solar and wind electric generating equipment eligible for net metering.


"A greener New York is good for the environment and the economy. Improvements made today will help prevent the environmental dangers of tomorrow. The environmental protection and green industry development package we passed today demonstrates the Senate Majority is fulfilling its commitment to a healthier future for all New Yorkers," said Senate Majority Conference Leader John L. Sampson.

"The three bills passed today will help clean New York's air, correct environmental injustice and create much-needed jobs in our state," said Marcia Bystryn, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters. "We applaud the Senate for approving these important measures and for working to restore New York's reputation as an environmental leader."

"The New York Senate has shown real leadership early in the session by firing out several strong environmental and clean energy bills today, "said Richard Schrader, the NY Legislative Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "These bills, if passed in both houses, will make it easier for consumers and homeowners to invest in conservation and clean energy materials and technologies."

Reducing Carbon Footprint Through Net Metering: S6700/Maziarz-Aubertine

This bill eliminates the peak load limitation on the size of non-residential solar and wind electric generating equipment eligible for net metering.

Net metering was expanded to non-residential customers in 2008 to encourage increased deployment of solar electric and wind electric technologies.  This expansion was limited to non-residential customers with systems with a rated capacity of the lesser of 2,000 kilowatts or the customer generator’s peak load as measured over the prior 12 month period.

Currently, the intended expansion of net metering to non-residential customers has been hindered by the limit on peak load. This bill would encourage greater deployment of renewable energy generation systems that advance the State's clean energy goals. In addition to helping to achieve renewable energy goals, on-site solar and wind generation will also allow the customer to save on energy costs.

Senator George Maziarz (R-Newfane), Chairman of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee said, “What we  accomplished today is fine tuning the 2008 law so businesses can take full advantage of the energy saving opportunities associated with net metering.  This green technology is good for the environment, but, as businesses incorporating net metering will show, it is also good for our economy.  Reducing energy costs is a fundamental part of promoting increased economic activity  in the state.

“This is a business friendly and environmentally friendly bill that will help lower the cost for businesses and create jobs,” said Senator Darrel Aubertine (D-Cape Vincent), Ranking Majority Member of the Senate’s Energy & Telecommunications Committee. “This legislation balances the needs of farmers, business owners, and the power industry, with the need to be better stewards of our environment. If a business wants to put photovoltaic panels on their roof or a farm is prepared to turn their waste into energy, net metering empowers these businesses to see that investment pay off with significantly reduced energy bills.”

"Today's passage of the net metering amendment is great news for New York's environment and clean energy economy," said Carol E. Murphy, Executive Director of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York (ACE NY). "A number of businesses, farmers, schools and nonprofit customers throughout the state are ready and willing to reduce their carbon footprint and energy bills by investing in renewable technologies, and today's vote ensures they will have that opportunity. We commend the Senate for supporting net metering and recognizing the important role renewable energy plays in meeting our environmental goals."

"By passing bills today that will reduce New York’s air pollution and encourage businesses to use clean energy, the State Senate is taking a big step toward creating New York’s clean energy economy," said Ross Gould, Air & Energy Director, Environmental Advocates of New York. "Encouraging the use of clean solar and wind power through net metering makes dollars and sense. By expanding the size of solar and wind systems that New York business can install, companies will save money while reducing stress on our aging power grid.”

Dean Norton, President of New York Farm Bureau said, "New York's farm families have been leading the way in utilizing renewable energy, from capturing methane on the farm and converting it to electricity to installing solar panels to help power farms naturally. Net metering is the tool that makes this innovation possible, and the New York Farm Bureau is pleased to support this important initiative.”

Ending Environmental Injustice: S4407/Schneiderman

Sponsored by Senator Eric Schneiderman (D-Manhattan), this legislation mandates a policy of equal treatment for people of all races, cultures, religions, incomes, education levels and sexual preference in the creation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies. It also ensures that the State of New York will provide environmental justice for all of its citizens regardless of their political or economic strength.

"Environmental justice means that every New Yorker has the right to clean air, safe drinking water and healthy communities to raise their children,” said Senator Schneiderman. “This legislation ensures that people with lower incomes or from communities of color will be treated equally under the state's environmental protection laws. It sends a clear message that New York will not tolerate a 'separate, but equal' policy when it comes to safeguarding communities from environmental hazards."  

Low-income and communities of color are victimized by disproportionate exposure to pollution. “A Climate of Change, ”a 2008 report by the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative found that 71 percent of African Americans live in counties in violation of federal air pollution standards compared to 58 percent of white; and 78 percent of African Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant, as compared to 56 percent of whites.

Minority community populations are burdened with a disproportionate number of incinerators, dumps, factories and other sources of pollution – a practice known as “environmental racism.” New York City is currently searching for new locations for solid waste transfer operations and this legislation will provide environmental justice to minority and disadvantaged communities by supporting their legal right to a healthy and clean environment.

Energy Conservation and Demand Reduction: S3712/Parker

In an effort to encourage energy conservation and demand reduction, gas consumers will now have “on-bill financing” available that pays for the installation of energy efficiency improvements financed by the gas utility company and paid for by the customer  over time through a charge on the customer's gas utility bill.

The legislation, sponsored by Senator Kevin Parker (D-Brooklyn), prohibits gas corporations from charging an additional fee or charge for the installation of capital improvements and fixtures to promote energy efficiency upon the request and consent of the customer.

Under current law, electric customers can update their electric systems using “on-bill financing”. This bill would allow gas customers to be treated the same as electric customers for the purpose of “on-bill financing” of energy efficiency improvements.

“Many property owners in New York State have already upgraded their electric systems to be more energy and cost  efficient,”  Senator Parker said.  “This bill will allow gas customers to upgrade their gas systems, financed by the gas company and pay back the cost over time.  This will save property owners money, reduce the carbon footprint and create jobs under the ‘green jobs initiative” passed by the Senate.”