All State Policies: New York
Below are short descriptions of relevant state agencies/departments by policy topic, followed by more information on specific policies.
Drinking Water: Over 9,000 public water systems provide nearly 95% of New Yorkers with drinking water. The Department of Health’s Drinking Water Protection Program “regulates the operation, design and quality of public water supplies and commercial bottled water suppliers; assures water sources are adequately protected; provides financial assistance to public water suppliers, [and] reviews and approves plans for proposed realty subdivisions.” The DOH implements and enforces the SDWA.
Environmental Justice: New York’s environmental justice policies are regulated and implemented by a number of agencies, with an advisory group and interagency coordinating council providing guidance and consistency across departments. The Department of Environmental Conservation’s Office of Environmental Justice works to “address environmental issues and concerns that affect primarily low income and minority communities through grant opportunities, enforcement of environmental laws and regulations, consultation, guidance, and enhance public participation.”
Bolstering CWA Protections
Maximum Contaminant Levels’ Monitoring requirements’ notification requirements
Rule Related to Maximum Contaminant Levels for PFOA, PFOS, 1,4-Dioxane
In 2018, the New York State Drinking Water Quality Council recommended adopting maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for PFOA, PFOS, as well as the nation’s first MCL for 1,4-dioxane to the Department of Health. The recommended MCLs were: 10 parts per trillion (ppt) for PFOA, 10 ppt for PFOS, and an MCL of 1 part per billion (ppb) for 1,4-dioxane. After facing rulemaking delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the MCLs were adopted in August 2020 by the Public Health and Planning Council. Public water systems must monitor for contaminants, notify health departments and the public of confirmed exceedances, and develop a plan and timeline to bring water systems into compliance. For more information on New York’s efforts to address PFAS contamination, view this informational report provided by the NY Department of Environmental Conservation.
Senate Bill S8158
Requires school districts and boards of cooperative educational services to conduct periodic testing to monitor for lead contamination in certain school buildings; provides additional aid to such districts and boards for the costs incurred due to the testing of potable water sources and systems containing an unacceptable amount of lead. Upon finding lead contamination in school drinking water, school districts will continue to conduct testing, provide safe potable water, and provide parents and guardians of students with notification of test results.
New York Cumulative Impacts Law (SB 8830/AB 2103D)
Signed into law 12/31/22
New York’s cumulative impact law amends the state’s environmental conservation law to address permitting decisions made by relevant state agencies. Agencies must consider the effects of any proposed action on disadvantaged communities, “including whether the action may cause or increase a disproportionate or inequitable or both disproportionate and inequitable pollution burden on a disadvantaged community.”
Existing Burden Report and Denial of Permits
Importantly, “When issuing a permit for any project that is not a minor project as defined in subdivision three of section 70-0105 of this article and that may directly or indirectly affect a disadvantaged community, the department shall prepare or cause to be prepared an existing burden report and shall consider such report in determining whether such project may cause or contribute to, either directly or indirectly, a disproportionate or inequitable or both disproportionate and inequitable pollution burden on a disadvantaged community.
No permit shall be approved or renewed by the department if it may cause or contribute to, either directly or indirectly, a disproportionate or inequitable or both disproportionate and inequitable pollution burden on a disadvantaged community.”
Monitoring Pollution Data
The law also requires that rules and regulations be developed to collect baseline monitoring data in disadvantaged communities to determine existing pollution sources, “potential routes of human exposure to pollution,” and includes examples of pollution to monitor. These include “exposure or potential exposure to contaminated drinking water supplies… [and] wastewater treatment plants” among others.
Learn more: State Policy Showcase
Check out River Network’s Environmental Justice State Policy Showcase to hear from Anthony Rogers-Wright, Director of Environmental Justice at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest about the advocacy efforts that went into developing this bill.
SB 2385/A 1564
Signed into law on 12/23/2019
Amended the Environmental Conservation law to include a new article related to environmental justice. It established definitions of key terms, including “environmental justice,” “fair treatment,” and “meaningful involvement” and established a permanent environmental justice advisory group and an environmental justice interagency coordinating council. The law requires all state agencies that have a significant effect on the environment to adopt an environmental justice policy based on a model policy developed by advisory group. Each state agency must appoint a staff member as an environmental justice coordinator to serve as a liaison to the EJ advisory council and to communicate with the public.
The law noted that the development of the model policy and the establishment of the EJ advisory group should be done by January 2021 – but as of May 2022, neither appear to exist yet.
New York Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (SB 6599)
New York Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (SB 6599)
Signed into law July 18, 2019
While this bill primarily focuses on New York’s efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to authorize the promulgation of regulations to achieve statewide GHG emission reductions, it also set the state for the cumulative impacts law (SB 8830/AB 2103D).
It defines “disadvantaged communities” as “communities that bear burdens of negative public health effects, environmental pollution, impacts of climate change, and possess certain socioeconomic criteria, or comprise high-concentrations of low- and moderate- income households.” You can read more about subsequent public engagement efforts to identify the state’s disadvantaged communities here.
A 22-member New York State Climate Action Council was established to develop a scoping plan to meet the goals and requirements of the act.
The regulations promulgated by the Department of Environmental Conservation will,
… “Design and implement all regulations in a manner that seeks to be equitable, to minimize costs and to maximize the total benefits to New York, and encourages early action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
b. Ensure that greenhouse gas emissions reductions achieved are real,
permanent, quantifiable, verifiable, and enforceable by the department.
c. Ensure that activities undertaken to comply with the regulations do not result in a net increase in co-pollutant emissions or otherwise disproportionately burden disadvantaged communities as identified pursuant to section 75-0111 of this article.
d. Prioritize measures to maximize net reductions of greenhouse gas
emissions and co-pollutants in disadvantaged communities as identified pursuant to section 75-0111 of this article and encourage early action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and co-pollutants.”