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CCE IN THE NEWS

Source: Legislative Gazette

Safe Playing Fields Act is awaiting gov.'s pen

BY EMILY CLAIRE ATKIN

Posted: May 31, 2010
Originally Published: May 17, 2010

A bill that would ban the use of pesticides on school and daycare grounds is just one step away from becoming law, passing in the Assembly with strong bipartisan support May 4, and now awaiting decision by the governor.

Bill S.4983-c/A.7937-c, also known as the Child Safe Playing Fields Act, passed in the Senate on April 20, the same day as the 20th annual Earth Day Lobby Day in Albany. Different versions of the bill have been in the works for more than seven years, and supporters are anxiously awaiting the governor's signature.

The bill was sponsored in the Assembly by Steve Englebright, D-Setauket, and in the Senate by Brian Foley, D-Blue Point.

"We are absolutely thrilled," said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, a grassroots organization that lobbies for environmentally friendly legislation. The group, which has more than 80,000 members in New York and Connecticut, made the Child Safe Playing Fields Act its number-one priority this year.

"We made an intentional decision, given the recession and given the budget deficit, that we would work on this bill because it's budget neutral, yet still very meaningful in protecting children's health," said Esposito. "We put all our eggs in this basket."

The bill has raised concern, however, within the pesticide industry. Representatives for the industry argue the use of pesticides on playing fields is necessary to protect children from nature-related ailments such as asthma, poison ivy, bee stings, allergens, Lyme disease and various mosquito-borne diseases.

But environmentalists say the pesticides do more harm than good, citing peer-reviewed, scientific evidence linking pesticide use to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, learning disabilities, neurological disabilities, headaches, nausea, dizziness, asthma and seizures.

"Science tells us that poisoning our school yards is no longer an acceptable policy and we need to change," Esposito said. "This legislation enjoys overwhelming public support, and we are counting on the governor to sign this bill into law."

"We know that the governor's office is being rigorously lobbied by the pesticide industry, so we are launching a grassroots effort to tell the governor to sign the bill into law," said Esposito.

Esposito said she expects to be generating more than 1,000 letters from members across the state. Prior to the bill's passage in the Legislature, Citizens Campaign said more than 8,000 letters had been sent and more than 9,500 signatures have been collected in favor of the legislation.

If the bill does get signed into law, Esposito said her organization would make passing another bill (S.07592/A.10490) its priority.
The bill, sponsored by Englebright and Sen. Joseph Addabbo, D-Queens, calls for a moratorium on the use of hydraulic fracturing in drilling for natural gas until a study on its effects is completed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The legislation is currently in both house's Environmental Conservation committees.