By John Louis Parker, Co-Chair, Committee on Legislation
The annual Legislative Forum and Luncheon of the Environmental Section held May 15 at the Great Hall at New York State Bar Center, One Elk Street in Albany was a well-attended success. Members of the environmental leadership of the New York State Assembly and Senate joined government officials, academics, advocates, and the General Counsel of the Department of Environmental Conservation to discuss New York's continuing recovery from Super Storm Sandy with a look to what could be ahead for the Empire State.
Super Storm Sandy pushed waters over seawalls and into the New York City subway system. It flooded homes, dislocated families, and knocked offline critical infrastructure. Sandy is the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, caused more damage on the North Atlantic coastline of the United States than any other storm, and claimed 72 lives in the metro area. The storm's impacts prompted Governor Cuomo to ask for $60 billion in disaster aid from the Federal Government. The well-attended and successful event began a thoughtful and detailed dialogue on issues of sustainability, adaptability, and resilience that will shape the New York metropolitan area for decades because severe weather events present an increasing threat to New York.
Among the legislative updates were discussions of legislation reducing harmful flame retardant chemicals in furniture, addressing non-point source pollution, recovering unused mediation to avoid sewage disposal, collecting mercury and device that use it, and possibly issuing a new environmental bond act. The panelists discussed the far ranging investigative powers of the Moreland Commission, the need for regulatory ratemaking proceedings to fund future infrastructure improvements, the potential benefits of implementing green infrastructure and encouraging use of natural ecosystem services such as wetlands to mitigate storm impacts, and potential options available in land use, municipal and environmental law to address extreme weather and climate change.
The program concluded with the newly appointed General Counsel of DEC discussing the challenges the agency faced in the aftermath of Sandy - the far ranging extent of the damage, the fact that the emergency authorizations expire on October 31, 2013, and future use of NY Works program to strengthen state assets, and proposed changes to the Region Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
A special thanks to May 15 Legislative Forum.pdf, and attendees.
Jeffrey Brown, John Parker, Andrew Wilson, Co-Chairs, Committee on Legislation.