On July 18, 2012 DEC announced the expansion of a pilot program called "Operation ECO-Quality" that is aimed at increasing compliance with environmental laws in small regulated facilities to communities from Buffalo to Long Island.
According to DEC, the program combines enhanced outreach, consultation and environmental community policing activities to help prevent pollution in some of New York's most environmentally burdened communities. The program focuses on encouraging greater compliance with environmental laws to address potential environmental health and quality of life issues.
Operation ECO-Quality was successfully piloted in three Westchester County communities in 2010. In the City of Yonkers, the compliance rate more than doubled, jumping from 42 percent to 91 percent. In Mount Vernon, the rate climbed from 36 percent to 86 percent, and in Peekskill, it rose from 45 percent to 83 percent. DEC is expanding Operation ECO-Quality to Western New York, the Capital Region, New York City and Long Island. The communities into which the program will expand include the South Bronx in New York City, Wyandanch on Long Island, and specific neighborhoods in the cities of Buffalo and Albany. DEC expects to add more communities to the program in the coming months.
From Buffalo to Long Island, DEC's Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) will conduct enforcement activities such as diesel truck emission checks where officers address truck traffic-related issues like idling and excessive exhaust. Officers will also conduct community patrols where they will visit neighborhoods to determine if any enforcement action is needed to address potential environmental and health issues in low-income and minority areas.
Operation ECO-Quality takes a flexible, community-centered approach to outreach and enforcement. Through education and enforcement, follow-up visits to facilities that were issued warnings have shown a dramatic increase in the level of compliance. DEC's Office of Environmental Justice and Division of Law Enforcement developed the program to prevent violations of the New York State Environmental Conservation Law that impact the health and quality of life of low-income and minority communities.