Long Beach sewage plan approved



County votes on $66 million bond for sewer consolidation plan

The City of Long Beach could soon be out of the sewage business.

In what officials called one of the city’s most important environmental initiatives, the Nassau County Legislature voted 18-1 on July 15 to approve a $66.4 million bond to reroute Long Beach’s sewage to the Bay Park Water Reclamation Facility and stop the flow of waste into Reynolds Channel.

The county and the City Council also approved an intermunicipal agreement that officials said would improve water quality and save taxpayer costs in order to redirect the flow of sewage from the city’s wastewater treatment plant. The $77 million project, which is expected to take several years to complete, calls for converting the city’s 70-year-old wastewater treatment plant into a pumping station and diverting up to 5 million gallons of raw sewage per day to the Bay Park facility.

The city’s untreated wastewater would be transported through a yet-to-be-built, four-mile-long pipe under Reynolds Channel leading to the Bay Park plant for treatment, and then to the Cedar Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, in Wantagh, through a viaduct under Sunrise Highway. It would then be pumped into the Atlantic Ocean through a planned three-mile-long ocean outfall pipe.

“In the long run, it’s immediately going to be beneficial to the City of Long Beach, but it will ultimately be beneficial to the residents throughout Nassau County,” said Legislator Denise Ford (R-Long Beach). “Once we take away the sewage treatment plant and make it a pumping station, the residents who especially live on the north side of Long Beach will [benefit from] having much better air quality and not having a stench permeating their neighborhood.”

“Ultimately, when we divert Bay Park to Cedar Creek, there will be no discharge of effluent into to the Western Bays, other than the East Atlantic Beach plant that is further west of these facilities,” said Ken Arnold, the county’s public works commissioner. 

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, and other activists have said for years that the pumping of effluent — or treated sewage — into Reynolds Channel is to blame for the high nitrogen and ammonia levels in the Western Bays. 

Nitrogen and ammonia accelerate seaweed growth, which removes dissolved oxygen from the water and kills marine life.

The current water treatment plant in Long Beach is obsolete, and struggled for years to meet current water treatment standards and state Department of Environmental Conservation regulations, the city said. Additionally, to meet new DEC regulations, the facility would have to undergo $50 million in upgrades. The current plant is also a pollution risk during storms as severe as Hurricane Sandy. Overall, city officials have said, updating the facility would cost $178 million.

County and city officials said that Bay Park, which underwent $830 million in upgrades after Sandy, is now a state-of-the-art facility that is much better equipped to handle and treat the city’s wastewater, and that work on the Long Beach project could begin next year. 

John Mirando, the city’s commissioner of public works, called the measure one of the most important environmental and financial projects in the city that would benefit the environment and residents. 

Officials said that both the county and city could face fines of $38,000 per day if they don’t move forward with the project. 

“We are faced with a consent order from the DEC — and at this point we’re either faced with consolidating with Nassau County or meeting the new ammonia standards,” said Mirando, adding that more federal and state regulations will have to be met, such as removing pharmaceuticals from wastewater. “The plant will continue to show its age and continue to cost huge sums of capital money to upgrade. This plant is just going to keep bleeding money.”

City officials have said the consolidation project would stop the pumping of about 60 million gallons of effluent per day, with more than 15 tons of pollutants, into Reynolds Channel and the Western Bays, and the dilution of the effluent would reduce nitrogen and ammonia levels. The county is pursuing state grants to pay for the bulk of the project. 

Long Beach’s share of costs associated with the project is $18 million, and officials said that the city had already received $7.5 million in state funding, and would apply for another $10 million in grants on Friday. Long Beach would also cover the county’s debt service and operational costs associated with the plan through the collection of sewer fees.

City officials said that under the intermunicipal agreement, the city’s treatment plant workers would not be laid off as a result of the deal, and would be integrated into different departments or be offered opportunities with the county. 

“I strongly believe that this is an environmental victory not only for the City of Long Beach but for Nassau County,” Councilwoman Anissa Moore, who lauded Mirando and other city officials for moving the plan forward, said at the July 16 council meeting. “Also, I think this is once again another way to minimize the financial risk we continue to deal with.”

Some legislators expressed concerns about what would happen if the city, which is struggling financially, were to declare bankruptcy. 

“I am not confident that, under the [intermunicipal agreement], the taxpayers of Nassau County are sufficiently protected from liability for costs of the project, which should be borne strictly by the City of Long Beach,” said Legislator Howard Kopel (R-Lawrence). “Unfortunately, the recent management of the city does not give me great assurance that its promises will be honored in a timely fashion.”

Local environmental activists lauded the agreement and the vote to approve the bond, with Esposito saying that the project is vital to residents throughout Nassau.

Esposito and Long Beach resident Scott Bochner — a member of the Western Bays Coalition, a co-founder of the Sludge Stoppers Task Force and a member of the Long Beach Environmental Advisory Board — called on Kopel to support the plan before he cast the lone dissenting vote and expressed concerns about details of the intermunicipal agreement. Both said that residents of his district would benefit from the project.

“I’ve been living on the bays for a really long time, and we’ve been watching the degradation of the bays for years and years, and this is the only way we’re going to correct the problem,” Bochner said. “In order to get this pipe diverted, we’ve been really patient and it takes time to get a project like this under way. If you don’t take that effluent out . . . there won’t be any protection.”

Esposito urged legislators to vote yes, saying that the project would improve wetlands to protect from flooding and storm surges while also restoring water quality and the shellfish industry.

“We have been working together for 15 years on this particular campaign on this particular issue,” she said. “Here we are today with a successful program.”

Suffolk comptroller Kennedy takes shot at opponent, County Executive Bellone




Suffolk Comptroller John Kennedy, GOP nominee for county executive, attacked Executive Steve Bellone’s plan seeking $4 billion in new revenue over 50 years to fund high tech residential sewage treatment systems, and charged he has raided existing environmental funds to meet payroll costs.

“We need to deal with our gaping fiscal hole and put our house in order before we start talking about spending $4 billion to build new castles in the air,” said Kennedy, in an interview after a news conference at Blue Point's Corey Beach, recently closed over pollution issues.

Kennedy’s attack came after the county health department Tuesday put forward the subwatersheds wastewater plan to combat nitrogen pollution in Suffolk’s bays and estuaries. Bellone and county experts have blamed those woes on cesspools and septic systems that do little to remove nitrates. The new plan calls for creating a recurring, but unspecified $50-70 million annual funding stream — to help homeowners with grants and loans to install the new systems that cost about $20,000 plus maintenance. Suffolk has 360,000 homes that are now unsewered. 

“This is rich coming from a career politician who has done nothing to solve the water quality crisis,” said Marykate Guilfoyle, a Bellone spokeswoman. “It’s time for the comptroller to stop playing politics with clean water and sabotaging the county’s efforts to protect water quality.”

Leading environmentalists also praised Bellone’s new plan. Kevin McDonald, a local policy adviser for the Nature Conservancy, called the plan a “blueprint for healthier waters on Long Island.” He said the problem — generations in the making — “can recover, if we make the necessary investments … now.”

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said, “This … landmark plan identifies a realistic path we can follow that will result in healthy, productive marine ecosystems,” adding “The challenges are funding, the political will and public engagement.”

However, Kennedy also questioned whether some Innovative Alternative systems will meet standards. “Even by their own admission their enhanced septic systems are not operating properly,” he said. “At least get the technology correct before you codify the thing.”  

Kennedy also charged Bellone has raided nearly $30 million in the county’s quarter-cent water quality program by diverting what is popularly known as “477 funding” for capital projects to improve water quality and is instead using it for unrelated payroll expenses to help balance the budget.

But Guilfoyle said the use of water quality funds for staffing went before the county legislature for approval, and Kennedy, as a former lawmaker “voted repeatedly” to do so. She said the comptroller should explain why he approved using these funds "for purposes voters never authorized.”

Kennedy conceded he sometimes voted for personnel, but only for jobs like design engineer, connected to capital projects. “They have filled positions that have nothing to do with groundwater protection, including a guy cutting grass on the golf course,” he said.

Plastic Bag Ban To Take Effect At Prominent Connecticut Grocery Store




Plastic Bag Ban To Take Effect At Prominent Connecticut Grocery Store

Zak Failla


Plastic bags will soon be a thing of the past at a prominent Connecticut grocery store, as they begin phasing them out as part of efforts to become more economically friendly.

Big Y announced that as of Thursday, Aug. 1, it will be eliminating single-use plastic bags from more than 80 markets and specialty stores located in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

"By working with shoppers, Big Y aims to further reduce consumption to make a difference across New England," the company announced. "As laws and regulations across the local communities that Big Y serves continue to change, the grocer will support shoppers in the transition by offering discounts on reusable bags through the month of August at all of its locations. They’re also providing online resources so shoppers can learn the best ways to keep their reusable bags clean for shopping trips."

Officials said that consumers use billions of plastic bags annually, which do not biodegrade, creating massive amounts of litter in neighborhoods and waterways and posing a threat to the health of area residents and the environment. The ban is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastic bag production and disposal.

"You see plastic bags hanging in trees, blowing down the streets, in landfills and in our waterways, and there is no doubt they are doing tremendous damage," officials stated. "Twelve million barrels of oil are used to make the plastic bags we use every year and by 2050 there will be more plastic by weight in the oceans than fish. We need to stop using plastic bags, and today we're putting an end to this blight on our environment.”

“At Big Y, beyond providing great quality, great prices and great customer service, we also try to be smart about the resources and energy we use,” Big Y Senior Vice President Richard Bossie said.  “By working with our shoppers, we can further reduce consumption to make a difference in and around the tight-knit communities that we serve across New England.”

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, single-use plastic bags are one of the top five single-use plastics found in the environment by magnitude, and they are one of the top five items encountered in coastline clean-ups.

Between 500 billion and one trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Less than 1 percent of plastic bags are recycled in the United States and they are not acceptable at certain recycling centers.

The EPA estimates that 80 percent of plastic pollution in the ocean originated on land, which includes plastic bags, and in New York, residents use 23 billion plastic bags annually, which contributes to pollution both on and off land. These bags do not biodegrade and they persist for years.

"Plastic pollution has become a serious threat to our lakes, rivers and marine environment as well as public health. Scientists are finding plastic pollution in shellfish and finfish, making its way to our dinner plates,” Citizens Campaign for the Environment Executive Director Adrienne Esposito said. “Giving up plastic bags and using reusable bags is one easy, reasonable step each member of the public can take to help combat the plastic pollution epidemic. It is time for everyone to get on the plastic bag 'ban wagon.”

"More than just an eyesore, plastic bags are a major source of pollution and cause tremendous environmental damage. The 23 billion plastic bags used by New Yorkers each year get stuck in our trees, blow along our beaches and parks, and endanger our marine and wildlife," Sen. José Serrano, Chair of Committee on Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation, said. "For the last decade, I have been working with my colleagues to reduce or eliminate plastic bag use in New York and I am thrilled to see the enactment of this statewide ban, making New York one of the leading states to tackle this important issue."

(Public News Service): Great Lakes Presidential Platform

Extreme weather due to climate change can exacerbate pollution runoff and toxic algal blooms in the Great Lakes.

Extreme weather due to climate change can exacerbate pollution runoff and toxic algal blooms in the Great Lakes.

July 25, 2019

NEW YORK – A coalition of more than 160 local, state and national environmental groups is asking every presidential candidate how he or she will address threats to drinking water supplies for more than 30 million people.

The Healing Our Waters Great Lakes Coalition has released a presidential platform to restore and protect lakes and drinking water for people in New York and seven other states.

According to Brian Smith, associate executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, the federally funded Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has made considerable progress since it was launched 10 years ago, but there still is a lot of work to do.

"We still have toxic hotspots that linger in parts of the Great Lakes,” he points out. “We have beaches that are closed due to high bacteria levels, and we have invasive species that threaten our fishing industry."

The Coalition's five-point platform has been distributed to major party candidates in advance of the next president debate being held in Detroit next week.

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump proposed cutting funding for the initiative by 90% to just $30 million, but then announced his support for $300 million in funding.

Kyle Rorah, acting director of public policy for the group Ducks Unlimited, says that's not enough.

"The Healing Our Waters Coalition is asking candidates who support the Great Lakes to restore funding for the GLRI at the $475 million level, as it was in its initial fiscal year of 2010," he states.

Over the past 10 years, the initiative has invested more than $2.4 billion in more than 4,700 projects throughout the region.

Laura Rubin, director of the Healing Our Waters Coalition, adds that without healthy water Americans cannot have healthy families, healthy communities or healthy economies, so clean drinking water needs to be a top issue in the presidential campaign.

"Every candidate has the responsibility and the moral obligation to explain how they will put an end to toxic water pollution, and how they will clean up drinking water sources like the Great Lakes, and provide clean, safe and affordable drinking water to all Americans," she stresses.

The full Healing Our Waters Great Lakes Coalition presidential platform is online at healthylakes.org.

Disclosure: National Wildlife Federation contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, Environment, Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY

Connecticut bag ban spurs contentious food waste debate



By: Cole Rosengren

Published by: Wastedive.com


July 11, 2019

Connecticut's newly passed bag bill marks an incremental step forward in plastic reduction efforts. It's also being described as a missed opportunity by many involved in the process.

As finalized in a budget bill recently signed by Gov. Ned Lamont, Connecticut will require retailers to charge a 10-cent fee for any "single-use checkout bag" starting Aug. 1. By July 1, 2021, all such bags will be banned entirely.

The law defines "single-use" as plastic bags less than 4 mils thick – excluding bags for meat, fish, produce, newspapers and dry cleaning. The dozen-plus municipalities that already have their own policies in place will be allowed to keep them, and others can still pass stricter ordinances.

Environmental groups wanted to see paper bags included as well, while companies in the organics world pushed for compostable bags to be exempted entirely. The final version has resulted in a universally palatable stalemate of sorts, but tension remains after a heated legislative process.

Path to the ban

“We've been advocating for a ban on plastic checkout bags with a charge on paper bags, with the end goal of obviously producing a policy that promotes reusable bag use," said Lou Burch, state program director for the Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE). "This law does not do that. However, we do think it’s a good step in the right direction."

CCE, Surfrider Foundation and the Connecticut Food Association originally pushed a bill that went much further than what has now been enacted, or even what preceded it.

The legislature's favored bag bill, passed out of the General Assembly's environment committee in April, would have banned single-use bags made of "plastic, paper or other material" by 2020. Paper bags would be allowed if they were deemed 100% recyclable, made from 40% post-consumer recycled content and included the phrase "Please Reuse and Recycle This Bag."

This open-ended language raised the alarm for two companies with Connecticut interests — Novamont, an Italian bioplastics company and Quantum Biopower, owner of the state's first anaerobic digester.

The two have been ongoing partners in an effort to expand organics processing in Connecticut. Quantum is actively looking for ways to attract residential tonnage, and Novamont saw an opportunity to expand market share for bags to line those hypothetical curbside carts.

In fact, Novamont told Waste Dive it was actively pursuing plans to build a new manufacturing facility in the state.

"I thought, why couldn't we make Connecticut the model in North America that Milan is to the whole globe and have food scrap collection and have anaerobic digestion and have [compostable] T-sacks in all the stores and curbside collection?" said Dan Martens, vice president of Novamont's North American operations.

According to Martens, the state's Department of Economic and Community Development was favorable to the idea and asked what it could do to help. Martens mentioned the bag issue.

When the governor's budget bill — which included the milder bag ban language that eventually passed — came out in early June, it contained a key new provision: an exemption for compostable bags.

Fearing this could result in essentially a one-for-one switch from thin plastic to compostable bags at grocery stores, environmental groups pushed back hard.

Melissa Gates, Northeast regional manager for Surfrider, described the language as "alarming" and "a terrible precedent to set this early in the game."

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The ensuing back-and-forth public debate — featuring 5 Gyres literature around performance standards of various bags, Novamont-backed literature decrying a "nasty campaign" to ban the bags and plenty of other claims in between — didn't last long.

Late in the budget amendment process, the compostable exemption language was stripped from the bill. While compostable bags are not banned, they're not encouraged.

Food waste fallout

In the aftermath, it wasn't immediately clear whether environmental groups were just concerned about the bags entering grocery stores or if they also didn't want to see them used as cart liners.

Quantum, which continues to eye expansion options even though a bill to pilot residential programs failed to pass this session, stands by the bags.

“[W]hen we look at where the successful diversion programs were taking place in the state and outside of the state, almost all of them were built around a fundamental tool — which was a compostable bag," said Quantum Vice President Brian Paganini. "Obviously, limiting exposure to plastic is important on many levels — certainly for the environmental impacts that we all know of — but I think the part that didn't make it into the conversation fully was the impact on food waste diversion."

Burch said CCE never had any issues with potentially using the bags as liners for food waste collection. He even considered language in the residential pilot bill favoring bags as cart liners "reasonable."

"But to suggest that we're going to make compostable bags exempt from the ban and exempt from the charge and we're going to offer them at the checkout counter — in the hopes that bag is going to find its way to an anaerobic digester — is just completely inappropriate," he said. "It completely undermines everything that thousands of citizens activists across the state have been working on for years — and that is to make single-use checkout bags a thing of the past."

Gates said she didn't currently see a role for liners of any kind in organics collection carts until infrastructure is in place to ensure they're safely handled. Her overriding concern is also about bags taking over in grocery stores.

Surfrider remains opposed to substituting products of any kind with new material — compostable or otherwise.

"We steer away from any single-use product because part of the issue is the consumer paradigm," she said.

Reflecting on next steps, Martens declined to confirm whether Novamont would still be pursuing plans for a new facility in the Connecticut. He stood by his products, maintaining that they're considered viable in many cities — either as bags in stores where plastic is banned, or for use in curbside organics carts.

Examples cited include BostonSeattlePalo Alto and San Francisco, California, as well as multiple European cities.

"We see our products not as a replacement for plastics but as a tool to facilitate food scrap diversion," said Martens, going on to criticize "shortsighted" efforts that might limit Connecticut's organics potential. "If you cut the tools out of the beginning, you kind of cut your nose off to spite your face — but they don't really see that far."

Interest in organics diversion remains high for many stakeholders in Connecticut, but this particular compostability discussion is expected to quiet down for the time being.

Still, it's just the latest in a series of examples of why assumptions about consumer behavior, vested manufacturing interests and state-specific political factors make passing any type of packaging legislation so challenging

Highlights and Happenings: June 2019


Help CCE build on our success, and support our campaigns to protect public health and the environment in NY and CT. Make a contribution today.



New York and Connecticut Legislative Victories

CCE had one of our most successful years lobbying in Albany and Hartford ever. Here are the highlights:


  • Approved the State Water Plan, which will ensure that water is a public trust and that CT’s current and future water supply needs are met equitably for years to come.

  • Placed a 10 cent charge on plastic bags and bans them completely by August 2021.

  • Banned hazardous hydrofracking waste statewide.

  • State mandate of 2,000 MW  offshore wind procurement by 2030.

  • Passed a package of “New Green Economy” initiatives that will extend existing renewable energy programs, encourage solar development, and invest in net metering.

New York:

  • Banned hidden carcinogen 1,4-dioxane in household products.

  • Passed the Climate and Community Protection Act, which requires net-zero green house gas emissions by 2050,   70% renewable energy by 2030, funding to help disadvantaged communities, and more.

  • Banned toxic chemicals from children’s products.

  • Required that large generators of food waste to donate edible food to the needy, and send food scraps to create compost or generate renewable energy through anaerobic digestion.

  • Banned plastic bags. The law will go into effect March, 2020.

  • Prohibited offshore drilling off  NY’s coast.

  • Protected Menhaden, (aka bunker fish) from dangerous overfishing.

  • Required manufacturers to establish a paint recycling program, which takes the burden off municipalities and taxpayers for disposing of unwanted paint.

  • Funded the Environmental Protection Fund at a historic $300 million.

  • Allocated an addition $500 million to upgrade wastewater and drinking water infrastructure.


Welcoming “Shelley the Turtle” to Sunken Meadow State Park


CCE and Atlantic Marine Conservation Society are working to keep plastic pollution out of Long Island Sound. In June, we held a beach cleanup at Sunken Meadow State Park. Following the clean up we unveiled Shelley the Sea Turtle, a 3D art instillation crafted from mesh metal and filled with the plastic pollution we collected. Shelley the Turtle will be a lasting reminder for the public to never leave garbage on the beach and to reduce their use of throw-a-way plastics.

Cleaning Up the Bethpage Plume

The NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation proposed a comprehensive plan to clean up contamination at the US Navy/Grumman Plume in Bethpage, Long Island. The plume, which  contains 24 contaminants including known and likely carcinogens, has impacted the drinking water and human health of residents in and around Bethpage for decades. CCE is supporting the state’s proposal but will be also be urging NY to include a plan for public involvement, soil remediation, an expedited clean up timeline, and treatment for contaminants like 1,4-dioxane and Radium in their final plan.

Fighting for a More Resilient Lake Ontario Coastline

As Lake Ontario homes and businesses continue to suffer from coastal flooding caused by record snowmelt and precipitation, we continue our efforts to build a coast that is more resilient to the impacts of extreme weather.  We welcomed the news in June that the Governor committed $300 million for Lake Ontario resiliency, and CCE is working to ensure that nature-based solutions, like wetlands and green infrastructure, play a key role in those resiliency efforts.

Calling for Federal Action on Emerging Contaminants


In Connecticut, about 50,000 gallons of firefighting foam containing PFAS was spilled into the Farmington River near Bradley airport. CCE and our partners stood in support of federal legislation, sponsored by Senator Blumenthal, which will provide funding to clean up toxic PFAS in our groundwater and identify safer alternatives to PFAS in firefighting foam.  In New York, we joined our Long Island Congressional Representatives, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, Suffolk County Water Authority, environmental groups, and residents for a press conference calling on the EPA to set safe drinking water standards for emerging contaminants 1,4-Dioxane and PFAS chemicals.

Celebrating the Kings Park Solar Farm

New York has passed the most aggressive plan to fight climate change in the country. The only way we'll get there is to promote local renewable energy projects, which is why we were thrilled to stand with NextEra Energy Resources and PSEG Long Island for a ribbon cutting at the Kings  Park Solar Farm. The project will bring 4 megawatts of clean, renewable energy to 1,000+ Long Island homes!                               

Polluters, not the Public, Must Pay for Clean Drinking Water

CCE was proud to stand with Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen to demand that polluters pay to remove contaminants PFOA and PFOS from our drinking water. Treatment for emerging contaminants will cost millions. The companies that contaminated our water must pay to clean up their mess. Now, we need Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign legislation (passed by the Senate and Assembly) that will allow the Town of Hempstead and other municipalities to sue the manufacturers of products containing these emerging contaminants.

Say YES to Wind for LI’s South Fork


In June, the Public Service Commission held public hearings on South Fork Wind Farm and the much-needed cable connection between the offshore wind turbines and the East Hampton power grid. We came out in force and testified on the importance of bringing 130mw of clean wind to Long Island.  CCE thanks everyone who came out to support wind power. If you missed the hearings, you can check out Adrienne Esposito’s testimony here and submit your own letters of support to secretary@dps.ny.gov.

Restoring  Long Island’s Shellfish

We joined Governor Cuomo and many of our water protection partners in Bellport to support the Long Island Shellfish Restoration Project. It was a beautiful day to head out on the boat and help seed native clams, which will help improve water quality in the bay.

Nominations are Open Now for the South Shore Estuary Reserve Stewardship Award

The SSER Council Stewardship Award Program recognizes citizens and organizations that have made significant contributions to protect and restore the South Shore Estuary’s unique natural environment and maritime traditions. Do you know someone who has made contributions to preserve and protect the South Shore Estuary? Nominate them for the 2019 South Shore Estuary Reserve Council Stewardship Award by July 31st here.

Tell Congress to Keep our Ocean Canyons & Seamounts Protected


The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts were designated as a Marine National Monument in 2016. This national treasure consists of five underwater canyons and four mountains, or seamounts. Its unique geological landscape is the only one of its kind in U.S. Atlantic waters, and it carries tremendous ecological value. Unfortunately, this underwater wonder is one of several protected areas in jeopardy of being opened to industry as part of the federal government’s attack on National Monuments.

An Underwater Marvel

This rare underwater monument is located about 150 miles off Cape Cod, and it covers an area about the size of the State of Connecticut. Its three largest canyons are deeper than the Grand Canyon, and its seamounts are higher than any mountain peak east of the Colorado Rockies.

This deep-water region is a hotspot for an incredible abundance of sea life, including rare, centuries old corals, squid, finfish and marine mammals. A 2018 aerial survey observed more than 600 whales and dolphins feeding in the area. Some whale species documented in the monument include endangered sperm whales and the rare North Atlantic right whale. These ocean canyons have even become a fertile breeding ground for plankton and forage fish, which may help squid and tuna fisheries outside of the monument.

Marine Science Opportunities Abound

The Northeast Ocean Canyons and Seamounts are protected against offshore drilling, commercial fishing, and other activities that can adversely impact the marine ecosystem—although scientific research is permitted. The rich diversity of sea life there makes the area a virtual treasure trove for marine biologists seeking to study sea life in an environment untouched by human disturbances. More than 950 different marine species have been identified within the monument, and new species are discovered with each expedition. If protected, the monument can provide us with valuable marine science data for generations to come!

Threats from Washington

The U.S. Dept. of Interior has recommended rolling back protections for the monument, along with dozens of others across the United States. Additionally, pressure from the commercial fishing industry to lift the fishing ban in the monument has grown in recent years, and some members of congress have signaled their support for easing restrictions in this area. Rolling back protections could reintroduce the threat of offshore drilling, commercial fishing, and other harmful activities in and around the monument.

Protect Our Marine National Monument: Tell Congress to Support the Antiquities Act of 2019

The Antiquities Act was passed by Congress and signed by President Roosevelt in 1906. It gives the president the authority to create national monuments on public lands that are deemed to have significant cultural, scientific, and conservation value. The Antiquities Act of 2019 would strengthen protections for national monuments by clarifying that no national monument designation can be undone without an act of congress. Additionally, it creates a National Monument Enhancement Fund that can be used for maintaining and enhancing national monuments protected under this act.

Congress must fight to maintain protections our marine national monument, but they need to know Connecticut and New York residents care about our ocean canyons and seamounts!

Contact your U.S. Senators today:

In Connecticut:
Senator Richard Blumenthal
Senator Christopher Murphy

 In New York State:
Senator Charles Schumer
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

Feel free to cut and paste the following message in your message to CT Senators:


I am writing to express my strong support for protecting the Northeast Canyons & Seamounts National Monument, and to urge you to keep this natural treasure protected. Please cosponsor and support passage of the Antiquities Act of 2019, which ensures that no president can undo protections on our National Monuments without approval of Congress.

Our Ocean Canyons and Seamounts are a virtual treasure trove of rare and endangered marine species. Congress must act to ensure this underwater marvel remains protected for generations to come!

Thank you for your consideration.  Please respond in writing with your position.

State Leaders Strike Agreement on Historic Climate Bill


For immediate release: June 18, 2019

For more information, contact: Adrienne Esposito, 516-390-7150, aesposito@citizenscampaign.org


CCE commends the Governor and legislative leaders for bold legislation to make New York a national leader on climate; call for passage before the end of session


Albany, NY—Today the Governor and legislative leaders in the Assembly and Senate came to an agreement on climate legislation, known as the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (A.8429 – Englebright / S.6599 – Kaminsky). The legislation would require 70% of the state’s electricity to be generated by renewable sources by 2030, zero emissions from statewide electrical generation by 2040, an 85% reduction in GHG emissions by 2050, net zero emissions in all sectors of the economy, and funding for frontline communities disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis. In response to the agreement, Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE), said:

“Enactment of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act will make New York State a trailblazer in the fight against climate change.  This is exactly the type of leadership that this nation needs right now. From the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy downstate, to the historic flooding occurring along Lake Ontario upstate, every corner of New York State is already feeling the impacts of climate change. 

This legislation will put New York on the forefront in the fight to solve the climate crisis. The bill sets aggressive and achievable goals for realizing the state’s vast renewable energy potential and reaching net zero carbon emissions economy-wide.  Furthermore, the bill rightly provides resources to traditionally underserved communities that face disproportionate adverse impacts from climate change.  These are the critical steps that we need to take to address the climate crisis.

We commend Governor Cuomo, Senator Kaminsky, and Assemblyman Englebright for leading the way on this bold initiative.  We now urge the full legislature to act and pass this critical legislation before the end of session.”



Nassau County Executive Curran Signs Styrofoam Ban into Law



Nassau County Executive Curran Signs Styrofoam Ban into Law

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran signed into law a ban on the sale and distribution of polystyrene foam containers (better known by the brand name Styrofoam) in Nassau County. County Executive Curran, joined by local officials and environmental advocates, signed the legislation into law at Jeremy’s Ale House, a staple on the Nautical Mile famous for their use of Styrofoam cups.

Last month, the Nassau County Legislature voted unanimously to adopt the legislation co-sponsored by Legislators Debra Mule (D-Freeport), Denise Ford (R-Long Beach), and Laura Schaefer (R-Garden City).

“Today, Nassau County is taking a big step towards the future,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. “Non-biodegradable polystyrene can’t be recycled like most products. So, while that coffee may be finished, the Styrofoam cup that was holding it won’t be. It will break down into small pieces – clogging our waterways, polluting our environment, hurting our wildlife, and even damaging local industries like fishing and tourism. We only have one Long Island – we must protect it.”

“Toxic, non-biodegradable Styrofoam devastates the waterways we cherish. I’m proud to stand with County Executive Curran and my colleagues as a co-sponsor this important bipartisan environmental initiative, “said Legislator Debra Mulé (D - Freeport.) “I am hopeful that today’s action reflects a major step forward in our efforts to encourage Nassau County residents to move beyond wasteful single-use products and embrace sustainable alternatives.”

"I was proud to join my colleagues in voting unanimously to approve legislation I co-sponsored banning polystyrene products in Nassau County, and am excited to see it signed into law,” said Legislator Denise Ford (R- Long Beach). “This will not only reduce the waste stream in Nassau County and provide reductions in waste disposal costs, it will also help unclog our waterways and better protect our natural environment."

“We’ve heard about the dangers of polystyrene foam for years now, and I am happy we are finally taking action,” said Legislator Laura Schaefer (R-Garden City). “These containers pollute our environment and clog our waterways. Enough is enough. This is an important step for a cleaner and healthier Nassau County.”

“Big problems need bold action,” Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “Styrofoam is littering our communities, beaches, and bays. Containers meant to transport food and beverages leach toxic styrene. Kudus to Nassau County for stepping up to tackle this pollution and public health concern by banning Styrofoam take-out containers, cups and plates.  Making the switch to more sustainable options is good for our environment and our health.”

Polystyrene foam – better known by its brand name Styrofoam – has been classified as a carcinogen, and in most cases is completely non-biodegradable. After breaking into small pieces, it becomes harder to clean up and its composition of fossil fuels and synthetic chemicals helps trigger serious hazardous waste and environmental damage, including killing marine life that consumes it.

On Long Island, it has been known to clog waterways and dramatically increase the cost of waste disposal for authorities. There is no practical method for recycling polystyrene foam, and incineration results in toxic fumes being released into the environment.

Businesses in Nassau County will have until January 1, 2020 to use up their existing reserve of polystyrene foam containers before the ban takes place. After that date, any business violating the law will be given fines from the Office of Consumer Affairs. The fines for first offense are up to $500, second offenses up to $1,000, and third and subsequent offenses up to $2,500. The money from those funds will provide for environmental investigation and cleanup of Nassau County properties.

Wind Farm Cable Landing Debated


Wind Farm Cable Landing Debated

Residents of Wainscott and Sierra Club activists were the most vocal of attendees at public hearings June 11 on the cable connection for the South Fork Wind Farm, a 15-turbine project proposed 35 miles off the coast of Montauk.

The original developers, Deepwater Wind, now a partnership between Danish energy company Ørsted and New England power distributor Eversource, are planning to connect the power from the wind farm to the electric grid at a Long Island Power Authority substation just east of East Hampton Village. 

The developers’ proposal to bring the cable ashore at Beach Lane in Wainscott has raised the hackles of neighbors of the proposed route, who are pushing for an alternate landing site at Hither Hills State Park in Napeague.

The on-land route from Beach Lane to the substation is about 4 miles and could be completed in one off-season between Labor Day and Memorial Day, while the 12-mile route from Hither Hills would take two seasons, said representatives from Ørsted at the hearing.

The two hearings, with one afternoon and one evening session, were part of the New York State Public Service Commission’s Article VII approval process, which covers the portion of the route within state waters up to three miles offshore, and the on-land portion of the cable route. The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will handle the permitting requirements for the actual wind farm, which is in federal waters.

Many residents of Wainscott spoke at the hearing, saying they are unconvinced that the construction will not disturb their use of the beach and the country roads in Wainscott, and urging the developers to chose the Hither Hills site.

Brandon Cook spoke of the “iconic beach and farm community” where his two young children play on the beach. He advocated for the Hither Hills site, and added that people in Wainscott rely on rental income from their houses, and asked if they would be compensated if they couldn’t rent their houses due to the work.

Simon Kinsella, who has been a vocal opponent of the Beach Lane landing site, works as a financial auditor. He said he believes the cost of the project has been underestimated by about one sixth of the actual cost and is “possibly the largest capital works project ever undertook on the East End of Long Island.”

He added that the public should be told the pricing details of Deepwater/Ørsted’s power purchase agreement from LIPA, which have been kept secret.

“Deepwater is corrupting and manipulating the process by denying the public the pricing information,” he said, adding that he may initiate a lawsuit to force New York State to disclose the pricing information.

Jonathan Stern said that there are “a significant number of residential dwellings” along the Wainscott route, while he said there were zero residential dwelling along the Hither Hills route. He added that the Wainscott route is in a FEMA-designated floodplain, with “New York State certified agricultural district lands with active working farms.”

Marshall Gluck of Wainscott said he enjoys driving around seeing the farmland in Wainscott.

“Luckily there is an alternative, and a very viable alternative,” he said, urging the use of the Hither Hills site.

Mary Anne Lindbergh of Wainscott said that “climate change influences my actions and thoughts multiple times a day,” but added that she is concerned by news of a cable from Deepwater Wind’s Block Island Wind Farm was exposed on the beach there.

Representatives from Deepwater/Ørsted said they are using a different cable-laying method for the South Fork Wind Farm, 30 feet below ground, that would not be in danger of being exposed on the beach.

Frank Dalene, who serves on the Wainscott Citizens Advisory Committee and East Hampton Town’s Energy Sustainability Committee, said that the Wainscott CAC “fully supported offshore wind up until the day the cable might come ashore at Wainscott.”

“One member said ‘I know it’s NIMBYism. So what,” he said. “

Mr. Dalene added that after contamination with perfluorinated chemicals was found in some wells in Wainscott, no one complained when East Hampton Town and the Suffolk County Water Authority dug up roads all over Wainscott to install new public water mains, including one on Beach Lane.

“The height of hypocrisy is astounding,” he said. 

Don Mattheisen laid out several recent dire reports on climate change about the urgency of reducing carbon emissions.

“That’s not local idiot Don Mattheisen saying that. It’s the 600 scientists of the International Panel on Climate Change, who looked at 6,000 studies evaluated by their peers,” he said. “We’re standing at the rail of a sinking ship in our tuxedos, looking at the lifeboat and saying ‘does it have a bathroom? Does it have an outboard motor? Can I take my suitcase? It’s time to stop dithering and build this thing.”

Several young Sierra Club activists also spoke — they’d gathered for a rally at the Hook Mill windmill at the foot of North Main Street before traipsing up the street for the public hearing at the East Hampton Village Emergency Services Building.

“I’m 23 years old, so obviously I haven’t lived here for 70 years like a lot of you people, but I’d like to, eventually,” said David Bassoon. “With climate disruption, I don’t think that would be possible without making offshore wind possible.”

“The Sierra Club urges the commission to keep on schedule, get this project built and ensure robust environmental protections throughout all phases,” said Adam Heller, a volunteer for the Sierra Club in Suffolk County. “It cannot be delayed. We’re counting on it to ensure Long Island’s cleaner and better future.”

“As a millennial, I feel it is my responsibility to speak up on issues affecting myself and my generation,” said Ashley Flores. “As a Long Island resident, I have an opportunity now to set a new and high standard for clean energy.”

As she often does, Citizens Campaign for the Environment Executive Director Adrienne Esposito didn’t mince words.

“I don’t mean to be flippant, but how exactly do you think you get your electricity now?” she asked. “There are cables all over… This is not something that’s new. It’s used all over the globe to transport electrical power.”

She added that East Hampton is considering options for moving Montauk’s downtown inland to protect it from rising seas, Freeport is looking at seagates that could cost $120 million, and the federal government is buying out homeowners on low-lying land in Mastic/Shirley.

“All of those actions, all of them, are to mitigate climate change and not one of them addresses the root cause of climate change,” she said. “It’s not going to be easy, and you might have to make a sacrifice… We have one future and we’ve got to get it right, or we’re not going to have another generation that gets to live here.”

East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, who is charged with implementing the town’s ambitious renewable energy goals, said the town is committed to “ensuring potential adverse impacts are comprehensively evaluated and mitigated,” and added that the town has not made any decisions yet on whether to grant the use of the town roads or the beach access for the Wainscott route.

But, on a personal note, he added, “what are you doing to reduce consumption, to add electricity to the grid? How are you being a part of the solution? We’ve created this demand that we have to fill.”

He added that he recently installed rooftop solar panels on his house, which are producing 164 percent of the power he consumes.

“So I’m covering half of one of ya,” he said. “Offshore wind is the way to meet our renewable demand. The alternatives are bleak.”

Written comments to the Commission are being accepted through July 12, referencing “Case 18-T-0604 – Deepwater,” by email to secretary@dps.ny.gov; through the website at www.dps.ny.gov, by searching using the case number for the “Post Comments” button, or by mail to Hon. Kathleen H. Burgess, Secretary, Public Service Commission, 3 Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12223-1350. 

Comments may also be left on the Commission’s opinion line at 1.800.335.2120, where they will be summarized and provided to the Commission. 

The wind farm application to the Commission can be viewed at www.dps.ny.gov, using the case reference number 18-T-0604, or at the East Hampton, Springs, Amagansett, or Bridgehampton Libraries. 

First Wind Farm Hearing Focuses On Wainscott, And Climate Change



First Wind Farm Hearing Focuses On Wainscott, And Climate Change

The first public hearings on the South Fork Wind Farm project brought residents from across Long Island to East Hampton on Tuesday to plead with the State Public Service Commission to make the smart choice when it comes to the Deepwater Wind proposal. 

For some, that meant for the commission to give its stamp of approval to the wind farm developer’s preferred electrical cable route—through Wainscott, and then under town roads to East Hampton—so that the 15 wind turbines can be built with as little delay or interference as possible. 

The wind farm is an important step toward reversing the effects of global warming in the United States, they said. 

But for others—mostly residents of Wainscott—it would mean the PSC finding that the power cable connecting the wind farm to land would best be brought ashore in a state park in Montauk, and not at quaint Beach Lane, in their backyards. 

Some—East Hampton Town elected officials, in particular—simply asked that, whatever the state commission decides as far as the cable route is concerned, it should ensure that the traditions, livelihoods and rights of South Fork residents are protected from unforeseen adverse impacts of the entire $1.6 billion project. 

Dozens of speakers weighed in on the project during a pair of two-hour hearing sessions on Tuesday at the Emergency Services Building in East Hampton Village, with officials from Deepwater Wind answering questions about the project and a PSC magistrate, Anthony Belsito, overseeing the proceedings. 

“We are glad for this hearing, because we will finally have someone who will decide where to land this cable, on the merits,” said John Finley, a Wainscott homeowner who has been among those spearheading a well-funded residents’ group opposing the proposed Wainscott landing site. “The residents of Wainscott only want one thing from the PSC: the best landing site.” 

For most of those aligned with Mr. Finley, the best site would be through Hither Hills State Park in Montauk, which Deepwater Wind has said is its second choice for a landing site. 

Bringing the cable ashore in one of the parking lots at the park campground would not require a major drilling operation to be set up for months near private homes, would not require small rural roads to be almost entirely ripped up as the cable is run underground once it reaches the shore, and would shorten the overall distance the cable must be buried in the sea floor by about 11 miles. 

They noted that using state parks to land undersea cables has been common practice in other projects, including the Block Island Wind Farm, also built by Deepwater Wind. 

The group of residents, calling themselves the Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott, say they have 1,300 supporters in their corner and were represented at Tuesday’s hearings by a team of attorneys and public relations experts with long ties to state government. 

Deepwater Wind has said that its preferred option to bring the cable from the sea floor onto land is beneath the ocean beach at the end of Beach Lane in Wainscott. Doing so would require several months of horizontal drilling, with equipment staged on narrow Beach Lane and drilling crews working around the clock at times. 

From there, the cable would run beneath two miles of town roads, which the company has said would mostly remain passable during the work. 

Officials from Ørsted U.S. Offshore, the entity that now owns Deepwater Wind, said on Tuesday that the work could be conducted over a single winter season, between November 1 and March 31, so as to not tie up summer traffic. The company has also pledged that access to the beach will never be impeded, and that roads would remain passable most of the time.

Jennifer Garvey, Long Island development manager for Deepwater Wind, said that the company had assessed the Wainscott route as not only cheaper but also less disruptive, because it would require the digging up of just two miles of lightly traveled roadways, rather than several more miles of the region’s main thoroughfare over two winter seasons. “We felt it was more beneficial to the entire community,” she said. 

Another Wainscott resident, Jonathan Stern, said the company’s interests would appear to more likely be their own. 

“The price is fixed no matter where the landing site is,” he noted, of the cost to the Long Island Power Authority to purchase power from the wind farm. “So the only one who has an economic stake in this is Deepwater, because it’s going to cost them a whole lot less.” 

Deepwater has acknowledged that the long on-land route is more expensive for them, though it has not said how much more. The Wainscott proposal, since it uses town-owned roads, would come with an approximately $8 million “community benefits” package from Deepwater that includes the company paying for infrastructure upgrades, burying power lines in scenic areas of Wainscott, and funding fisheries support programs through the East Hampton Town Trustees. 

But Katarina Mesarovich, also a Wainscott resident, said that adding the installation of the wind farm cable to the area would contribute to the “industrialization of Wainscott” and is not worth the benefits. 

“We already have the airport, there is an industrial park being proposed, and now we have this large project, in this small community,” she said. “Why would we risk our most valuable asset—the beach—for the price of one house?” 

Not all Wainscott residents sided with their neighbors in opposition to the landing site. 

Frank Dalene, a former chairman of the town’s Energy Sustainability Committee, lashed out at his neighbors for their opposition. 

“After it was announced that the cable may land on Beach Lane, there rose up in the community charlatans, purveyors of false information and fear-mongers,” Mr. Dalene said. “They … gathered a following, because the false information and fear-mongering fit the narrative of NIMBYism.” 

Michael Hansen, a member of the Waincott Citizens Advisory Committee along with Mr. Dalene, echoed that sentiment. 

“The opponents to wind power on the East End of Long Island want you to know they are for wind power, they are for renewable energy—but not now and not in my backyard,” he said, mocking opponents’ support for the project as long as the cable was elsewhere. “Wainscott is tough. We can take it. We endured [the Suffolk County Water Authority] digging up our roads to ensure clean water. We can endure one winter of digging up our roads to ensure clean energy.” 

Others characterized the debate about the landing site as pointless fretting over something of little consequence. 

“What we are doing is standing at the railing of a sinking ship, in our tuxedos, asking, ‘Is there a bathroom in the lifeboat?” said Don Matheson, imploring the PSC to “stop listening to whiners who are in search of a perfect solution that doesn’t exist.

“It’s time to stop dithering and build this thing,” he said. 

Deepwater Wind South Fork LLC is seeking to build 15 turbines in the ocean about 35 miles southeast of Montauk in an area known as Cox Ledge. The wind farm would be connected to the South Fork by a 50-mile-long undersea power cable, 12 inches in diameter, which will come ashore at whichever site is ultimately decided on and then run underground to the LIPA substation near Buell Lane in East Hampton. The substation will undergo a substantial expansion to accept the cable. 

To win permission for the project, Deepwater has to navigate a two-pronged review: with the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management assessing the designs of the wind farm itself, which will stand in federal waters, and with the state PSC holding sway over the route the power cable will follow into New York State waters and on land. The federal review process has yet to move into the public hearing phase. 

Deepwater-Ørsted officials have said they hope to have the permits in place by the end of 2020 so that construction can begin in 2021 and the wind farm can go online in 2022. 

While the 15 turbines will constitute their own project, Ørsted and its partner, New England energy company Eversource, have dozens more turbines planned for construction in their wind lease area to send power to Rhode Island and Connecticut. Other companies have projects in the pipeline as well, and more than 200 turbines could be spinning in the waters between Montauk and Nantucket by 2025, with hundreds more planned for the New York Bight. 

Fishermen have proven to be the main objectors to the wind farm in general and the ultimate scale of development proposed, with fears that the noise of the turbines or electromagnetic fields from the power lines could alter historic fish migration patterns and destroy traditional fisheries. 

East Hampton Town Trustee Rick Drew asked the PSC on Tuesday to help ensure that fishermen are protected. 

“We as a board have represented the rights of our community pertaining to fishing rights, access to our common lands and beaches and other rights … for over 350 years,” he said. 

On behalf of the Trustees, he laid out a collection of additional protections that the Trustees would like to see imposed on, and paid for by, Deepwater conditional to any approvals: an independent engineering review of the construction plan, establishment of a performance bond to ensure issues with the installation of the cable under the beaches are addressed, continual monitoring of electromagnetic fields on the beach where the cable lands and a specific study of the effects of EMF emissions on striped bass and the baitfish they feed on. Mr. Drew also said that the community benefits package offered by Deepwater if it uses the Wainscott site should be valid regardless of where the cable lands in East Hampton Town. 

For many of the speakers on Tuesday, however, the project’s long-term benefits outweighed any concerns about local worries. The Sierra Club mustered dozens of young Long Islanders to come and offer their support for wind power as the most important arrow in the quiver for rolling back the causes of global warming. 

“The time is nigh to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy,” said Danny Morgan. “East Hampton has a great opportunity to set that standard. The answer is literally blowing in the wind.” 

Adrienne Esposito, of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, spoke directly to those concerned that the drilling in their neighborhoods would be disruptive and nodded to the billions of dollars being spent across Long Island to protect against rising sea levels.

“All of those are mitigating climate change, but not one of them is addressing the problem,” she said. “It’s not going to be easy, and you might have to make a sacrifice. We’re in this together—it’s one island, one fight, and we’ve got to get it right or we’re not going to get another generation who gets to live here.”

Wind power in the forecast for New York



Wind power in the forecast for New York

The weathervane is pointing to Thursday for the big announcement from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on the state’s first round of major offshore wind farm awards — assuming the off-and-on event doesn’t get canceled again.

And figure on it taking place in Manhattan, to lure the national media the governor seeks for the occasion.

At stake: At least 800 megawatts (or more) of wind energy awarded to two (or more) of the four proposals before the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Meanwhile, a smaller project further along in the pipeline — a 130-megawatt farm off Montauk from Danish giant Orsted, which has a power-supply contract from LIPA — is facing opposition in East Hampton Town and especially in Wainscott, where the cable would come ashore. Permits still are needed.

Two hearings in East Hampton on Tuesday hosted by the Public Service Commission drew dueling marches, rallies and testimony from supporters and opponents — though some wind fans who might have attended instead joined a demonstration in Albany in favor of climate change legislation. It’s a busy time for NY’s environmental advocates.

Even though three of the four large-project proposals Cuomo will announce are also for ocean areas off the East End, the current battle might not be a dress rehearsal for approvals to come. That’s because the power they generate likely would come ashore much further west than East Hampton. One likely site would be under Jones Beach, where the cable would parallel the existing Neptune cable up the Wantagh Parkway before veering off and plugging into an existing substation in Melville on Ruland Road. The same scenario could work for a wind farm pitched for the New York Bight, 14 or so miles off Nassau County, which also has two logical landing spots in Brooklyn.

Then again, wind advocates say Tuesday’s competing press events might be repeated in the next go-round.

“You never know what people are going to be opposed to,” Citizens Campaign for the Environmentm executive director Adrienne Esposito told The Point. “We don’t know what communities are going to come up with.”

Nassau County Approves Ban On Styrofoam Containers 



Nassau County Approves Ban On Styrofoam Containers 

The ban, which goes into effect in January, will make it illegal to sell Styrofoam in the county. Businesses will be fined if they do.


Nassau County Executive Laura Curran signed a law today that bans the sale and distribution of Styrofoam containers in the county.

"Today, Nassau County is taking a big step towards the future," Curran said. "Non-biodegradable polystyrene can't be recycled like most products. So, while that coffee may be finished, the Styrofoam cup that was holding it won't be. It will break down into small pieces – clogging our waterways, polluting our environment, hurting our wildlife and even damaging local industries like fishing and tourism. We only have one Long Island – we must protect it."

Polystyrene foam – better known by its brand name Styrofoam – has been classified as a carcinogen, and in most cases is completely non-biodegradable. After breaking into small pieces, it becomes harder to clean up and its composition of fossil fuels and synthetic chemicals can cause environmental damage, including killing marine life that consumes it.

On Long Island, it has been known to clog waterways and dramatically increase the cost of waste disposal for municipalities. There is no practical method for recycling polystyrene foam, and incinerating it releases toxic fumes.

Businesses in Nassau will have until Jan. 1, 2020 to use up their existing Styrofoam containers before the ban takes place. After that, any business violating the law will be fined $500 for a first offense, up to $1,000 for a second offense and up to $2,500 for every subsequent offense. The money from those funds will provide for environmental investigation and cleanup of Nassau County properties.

"Big problems need bold action," said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. "Styrofoam is littering our communities, beaches and bays. Containers meant to transport food and beverages leach toxic styrene. Kudus to Nassau County for stepping up to tackle this pollution and public health concern by banning Styrofoam take-out containers, cups and plates. Making the switch to more sustainable options is good for our environment and our health."

After 18 Years, Connecticut Finally Has A State Water Plan



After 18 Years, Connecticut Finally Has A State Water Plan

State Representative Mary Mushinsky (D-Wallingford) has been seeking creation and adoption of a State Water Plan since 2001.

By News Desk, News Partner | Jun 10, 2019

From CT General Assembly:The legislature on June 5, 2019 finally ratified the State Water Plan, a technical and policy document four years in the making and 18 years in the planning since the legislature first required a water plan in 2001.

According to the CT Dept. of Public Health, the State Water Plan lays out a framework for managing Connecticut's water into the future and for achieving balance with human and environmental needs as climate trends emerge and new needs develop. It addresses the quality and quantity of water for drinking, ecology, recreation, business, industry, agriculture, energy, and wastewater assimilation.

State Representative Mary Mushinsky (D-Wallingford) has been seeking creation and adoption of a State Water Plan since 2001.

"We have had numerous warnings of the fragility of our water resources, including drying up of rivers such as the Fenton at UConn and the Shepaug in northwest CT," Rep. Mushinsky said. "It was clear to me that the state needed to apply science and conservation to this challenge to ensure we have sufficient clean water for all the state's needs well into the future."

The legislature established the Water Planning Council (WPC) in 2001 to bring together multiple state agencies that had jurisdiction over water. Rep. Mushinsky said one significant roadblock to water management was the separation of water regulation among multiple state agencies, which the Council was designed to solve.

Following a new threat to another state river, the Farmington, legislators passed Public Act 14-163, directing the WPC to create the plan that would help planners, regulators, and lawmakers make decisions about managing Connecticut's water in a manner that is consistent throughout the state.

"Until we gave them funding to do the analysis, the plan wasn't moving," Rep. Mushinsky said. The completed plan reflects the input of various stakeholders, committee members and public participants. The council held public hearings on the draft plan across the state in 2017.

The Council presented a final document to the Governor and legislative committees in 2018. Mushinsky said the phrase "water is a public trust" in the plan caused some disagreement and a one year delay in legislative approval. In 2019, legislators with the help of attorneys in Gov. Lamont's staff crafted language to make clear the statutes decide any perceived conflict between the plan and the statutes.

The WPC is comprised of four members: John W. Betkoski (Chair), Vice Chairman, Public Utilities Regulatory Authority; Garrett Eucalitto, Undersecretary, Office of Policy and Management; Betsey Wingfield, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection; and Lori Mathieu, Drinking Water Section Chief, Department of Public Health.

Mushinsky, who worked with colleagues including State Representatives John Hampton (D-Simsbury), Jonathan Steinberg (D-Westport) and State Senator Mary Abrams (D-Meriden), and clean water groups including Rivers Alliance, CT Fund for the Environment and Citizens Campaign for the Environment to pass the plan, said Connecticut now joins a small number of states in the U. S. with science-based water plans.


America at the crossroads: What LIers think of our future



America at the crossroads: What LIers think of our future

Matthew Elgut prays that future generations will be better off than his — but doesn't think it's likely.

The 45-year-old Shoreham father of two says the threats of climate change and a possible mass extinction of species are a key reason for his worry.

"If we fail to act soon I fear we will fail our children and the world we leave them will be but a shell of what once existed," he said.

Still, Elgut said he's not sure whether he's optimistic or pessimistic about the United States' future.

That mix is reflected in a recently released Pew Research Center survey which found that 56 percent of Americans said they are somewhat or very optimistic about the country in 2050. But Americans were pessimistic about key parts of our future, with majorities predicting "the economy will be weaker, health care will be less affordable" — and 59 percent saying the environment will be worse.

"I don't think that's pessimism but rather realism. The truth is our environment will get worse before it gets better," said Adrienne Esposito, the Farmingdale-based executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

"We are on the verge of transitioning away from fossil fuels to renewable energy, advancing promising technologies including battery storage and geothermal, and building strong public support to usher in these changes. It will take a little time but we will get there."

The future of our environment is affecting major decisions today for some Long Islanders. Jessica Morgan, 31, a Sound Beach resident, said climate change is top of mind as she and her partner save for a house.

"It's very real that sea levels are rising. The landscape of Long Island is going to change. Do we invest here for a 30-year mortgage?" Morgan asked.  

The social worker said she tries to practice "active hopefulness," and do everything she can to ensure her future, Long Island's and her community's.

Chris Jones, 65, senior vice president and chief planner of the Regional Plan Association, said what comes through very clearly in the Pew numbers "is just how much more pessimistic we've become as a society. And I think that's particularly striking for a lot of suburban areas, and particularly Long Island, that really developed on this surge of optimism about the future."

"It's largely consistent with previous polling that's been done on Long Island. And there certainly are a lot of trends that explain why some of these attitudes are changing at this point," he said. "We've certainly come through a fairly extensive period where incomes have not grown that much."

"It's interesting that people seem bipolar on this," former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy said about the Pew study.

"On the one hand, they have hope, but on the other hand when they look at specific items, it's very depressing. We're really at a crossroads, on the local level and nationally," said Levy, 59, a Republican from Bayport.

"And what we do policy-wise, and culturally, over the next several years will point us either in a direction of maintaining a traditional status as a productive nation, or we go down the path of the European socialistic entitlement type of nation."

For Levy, the vibrant economy he attributes to President Donald Trump's 2017 tax cuts shows "the policies that you adopt make all the difference in the world."

Noret Bazemore, 47, is concerned about isolation and social awkwardness with "online everything taking over every aspect of our lives."

"Kids are not learning on their own how to develop relationships with each other, which means they'll grow into adults that don't know how to develop relationships with each other," said the custom cake designer from Freeport.

She wants her three sons to be as self-sufficient as possible with life skills like doing laundry, chores and cooking. She explained how her 8-year-old and 10-year-old made breakfast the day before.

"They're taking the initiative to do these things. And these are the men that I want them to be. Feeling very capable and empowered, where they know they can take care of things," Bazemore said. "And I'm not finding that within my peer group. A lot of the moms, they do everything for the kid."

Elgut's concerns are big picture and fundamental. He says he worries about "what's becoming of this country, what can be done still to mitigate some of the unfortunate events that have taken place, and how we can get back to what seemed like normal," the registered nurse said. "The lack of interest in a good portion of this country to accept science is just baffling to me."

But, Elgut said, "If we could somehow for the greater good come together as a country, I really do think that we have tremendous tools with technology and perseverance to at least, at the very least, mitigate some of the worst possibilities that may occur" environmentally.

Esposito sees the environment as a bipartisan issue that affects public policy and quality of life.

"I have great faith in the public to be engaged and to fight this battle with us," the Patchogue resident said, adding this: "If you don't see the light at the end of the tunnel, you're doomed to be in perpetual darkness."

Highlights and Happenings: May 2019


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Celebrating 34 Years of Advocacy at Our Annual Gala


We celebrated 34 years of working to protect public health and the natural environment at our annual Environmental Equinox Gala this May. We were proud to honor Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone for his commitment to protecting Long Island’s waters, and Estee Lauder Companies for their dedication in fighting climate change by investing in renewable energy. Thanks so much to everyone who attended and celebrated with us!

Say NO to Plastic Pollution

  • Victory! Nassau County, NY Bans Polystyrene: Long Island will soon be Styrofoam-free! In April, Suffolk County banned polystyrene foam, aka Styrofoam. In May, the Nassau County Legislature voted unanimously to pass its own ban on polystyrene. Big thanks to all who came to the public hearing and vote, and special thanks to Legislators Ford, Schaefer, and Mule for their leadership on this bill. Next up – Westchester County!

  • Victory! Westport, CT Bans Plastic Cups, Straws, Stirrers, and Polystyrene Containers: After being the first municipality east of the Mississippi River to ban plastic bags over a decade ago, Westport, CT is once again leading the way in the fight against plastic pollution. With this ban on many of the most common single-use plastic items found in our parks and beaches, Westport has one of the most comprehensive laws to curb plastic pollution in the nation.

  • Stamford, CT BYOBag Law Takes Effect. Stamford’s ban on plastic bags, along with a 10 cent fee on paper, went into effect in May. Thanks again to the Stamford Board of Representatives for their leadership in the BYOBag movement.


Cleaning Up the Navy/Grumman Plume in Bethpage, NY

The contaminated groundwater plume in Bethpage continues to threaten drinking water and public health on Long Island, but there is some good news. NYS recently released a comprehensive plan to contain and remediate the plume. In May, we attended a roundtable discussion hosted by Congressman Tom Suozzi, and included the EPA, NYS DEC, Congressman King, the Supervisor of Oyster Bay, water providers, and other stakeholders. The attendees discussed the Navy’s plan and the state plan, and the crucial next steps we must take to remediate the plume. Now, we need your help. Join us on June 10th at 5pm at Bethpage High School for a public meeting and support the plan to finally clean up the Navy/Grumman Plume.

Fighting to Ban Offshore Drilling off of CT


CCE’s Lou Burch joined Senator Richard Blumenthal for a press conference highlighting the need to protect the Atlantic coast from dangerous offshore drilling and supporting a federal ban on offshore drilling. We spoke about how we must embrace renewable energy, not remain “fossil fools,” and the dangers posed to our waterways and our communities by allowing offshore oil and gas exploration in our region.

Collaborating in Buffalo, NY on Water Equity

In May, we participated in a water equity learning exchange held by the U.S. Water Alliance. Representatives from Buffalo, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Camden and other cities around the nation shared information on challenges and best practices to ensure clean water is available to all, particularly those in low-income communities.   Issues included drinking water affordability, lead in drinking water, climate change and urban flooding, and workforce development.

Tackling Odors from the Brookhaven Landfill

After years of complaints about the landfill being ignored by the Town of Brookhaven, we went to NYS Senator Monica Martinez for help. CCE joined residents, as well as teachers and parents from the nearby Frank P. Long School, for a meeting with the Senator to discuss the unbearable odors impacting local quality of life and the myriad of health impacts experienced by those living and working near the landfill. If the Town won’t help the community, we need our NYS leaders to step up and protect our air, health, and quality of life!

Protecting a National Treasure in the Atlantic Ocean

The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument is located 150 miles off the coast of Cape Code and is about the size of Connecticut. It is the only marine national monument in the Atlantic and is home to a plethora of marine life including endangered sea turtles, whales, seabirds, and rare deep-sea corals. Unfortunately, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts are under attack from the Trump Administration’s attack on national monuments. In May, CCE and our allies met with U.S. Senator Murphy to discuss the importance of this national treasure. We are now gearing up for a big campaign to protect this National Monument, so stay tuned for more on how you can help to protect this treasure.

Talking Plastic Pollution in Western New York


CCE’s Brian Smith presented at an event held by the Tonawanda Commission for Conservation of the Environment on the threat that plastic pollution poses to the Great Lakes, and how the public can help address this problem. By bringing your own reusable bag, coffee mug, takeout container, straw, and more, everyone can help protect our lakes from plastic pollution.   Furthermore, he urged the public to contact their elected officials and support common sense policies to reduce single use plastic pollution, such as a ban on Styrofoam containers.

Working with our Great Lakes Allies in Detroit

In May, we attended the Healing Our Waters Great Lakes conference that was held in Detroit, MI.  This is the region’s largest Great Lakes gathering, and allowed us an opportunity to collaborate with stakeholders from all the Great Lakes States on how to continue to advance Great Lakes restoration.  Critical issues included ensuring increased federal funding, upgrading failing water infrastructure, drinking water affordability, keeping Asian carp out of the lakes, and more.

CCE’s Adrienne Esposito Makes City and State’s Long Island Power 100 List


CCE's Executive Director made the Long Island Power 100 List from City and State, which identify Long Island leaders making a difference on Long Island. Adrienne was honored for her work fighting to protect drinking water, reduce food waste, combat plastic pollution, and more.  Check out the full list here.

Heat Your Home Without Fossil Fuels!

We are an active member of the HeatSmart CNY campaign, which has been working to help CNY residents and businesses install modern, clean geothermal systems. HeatSmart CNY is a grassroots community initiative to support residents and businesses in exploring ways to improve the efficiency of their buildings, including air source, ground source, and hot water heat pump technologies. To learn more about geothermal technologies, join us at upcoming HeatSmart events. If you own a home or business in Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Onondaga, or Oswego Counties, you can sign up for a free, no obligation energy assessment!

Court Puts Hold on Sand Land Mine Expansion



Court Puts Hold on Sand Land Mine Expansion

A coalition of local civic groups, neighbors, nonprofit organizations, and government officials was successful Friday in obtaining a preliminary injunction against the Sand Land mine in Noyac that puts expanded mining on hold.

Acting New York State Supreme Court Justice James H. Ferreira granted the injunction and said the petitioners, including the Noyac Civic Council, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Group for the East End, Southampton Town, State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., and others, showed evidence “sufficient to demonstrate that there is a danger of irreparable harm” if mining is allowed to widen and deepen at Sand Land. According to Justice Ferreira’s decision, Sand Land has denied as much, but has “failed to demonstrate how they will be harmed or prejudiced if the injunction is granted” with respect to the expanded mining area in question.

“This is a major victory for the environment, our drinking water, and the community at large,” Mr. Thiele said in a statement Monday. “This will permit the neighbors, the civics, and elected officials to make the case to the court that the expansion of this mine is an illegal threat to the environment without fear of additional harm to our drinking water.”

Neither John Tintle, owner of Sand Land, nor Brian E. Matthews, the attorney representing the mine, could be reached for comment by press time this week.

The court challenge stemmed from a decision in March by the State Department of Environmental Conservation that would allow Sand Land to expand its mine across about three more acres, and dig 40 feet deeper than its previous permit allowed. That decision was part of a settlement that would also allow the mine to operate for eight more years before it would have to begin land reclamation efforts over a 10-year span. The agreement also established a groundwater-monitoring program.

The expanded mining area in question has been dubbed the “stump dump,” a former disposal area for vegetative organic waste, which Sand Land’s opponents claim could pose a severe threat to the environment. According to court documents, the D.E.C. settlement included the three-acre stump dump in Sand Land’s “mined land use plan.” It had not been included in previous plans or permits.

Sand Land’s opponents tapped Dr. Stuart Z. Cohen, an organic chemist and groundwater expert, who analyzed previous groundwater testing results that found significant evidence of pollution. He provided a written affidavit testifying that mining the stump dump would likely further contaminate groundwater in the area.

Dr. Cohen also wrote that “excavating the bottom of the pit deeper will be conducive to increased water flow . . . thus mining activity in this area is likely to result in a funnel effect of the contaminants, essentially increasing the speed at which they enter the aquifer.”

The Article 78 complaint against Sand Land, owned by Sand Land Corporation and Wainscott Sand and Gravel, also targeted the D.E.C., with the goal of forcing it to stop processing Sand Land’s mining permit application. However, Justice Ferreira did not order the D.E.C. to push pause on the application.

According to Mr. Thiele, the D.E.C.’s settlement with Sand Land in March was a reversal of its previous directive in September 2018 to close the mine. He called for the D.E.C. to reconsider its settlement.

“They need to be on the side of the public, not the polluter,” Mr. Thiele said. “We desire nothing more than to protect our drinking water. That should also be the mission of the state D.E.C. The public should be heard. No permit should be granted for expansion. The mine should be closed.”

The D.E.C. issued a statement Tuesday saying it could not comment on pending litigation, but said, “Our comprehensive settlement has put this facility on the path to closure and secured the most stringent and aggressive oversight and protection of water quality over any facility of its kind in New York State. D.E.C. will continue to be a regular presence on the site and will take immediate action if any violations are found.”

Elena Loreto, president of the Noyac Civic Council, called Justice Ferreira’s decision “wonderful.”

“It’s about time a judge opened up his eyes and looked at what was really going on,” she said Tuesday. “I think it’s a huge win for us.”

The Noyac Civic Council recently sent the D.E.C. a petition with 757 signatures opposing the settlement and calling for a public hearing, but Ms. Loreto said they have not heard back.

“We’re in limbo,” she said. “We have many questions, and we want answers.”

Proposal for Suffolk referendum on water fee stalls in Albany



Proposal for Suffolk referendum on water fee stalls in Albany

A proposed ballot referendum that would raise up to $70 million a year for Suffolk wastewater projects through a water fee is struggling to gain traction in Albany, with the bill yet to get a sponsor in the State Senate and lacking support from County Executive Steve Bellone and county lawmakers.

Environmentalists are making a late push to pass the measure before the State Legislature adjourns June 19.

“This is the most urgent thing that government should be doing, and there’s absolutely no excuse for putting it off,” said Dick Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society. “I don’t know how anyone thinks we can improve water quality if we don’t have a revenue stream.”

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said, “There’s a distant chance of it happening this year, considering it’s not even introduced yet. … Each day, the chance that it gets introduced and passing fades a little more.”

A bill introduced by Assemb. Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) on May 3 would assess a per-gallon water charge to fund wastewater projects in the county, including nitrogen-removing septic systems, sewer expansions and wastewater treatment plant upgrades. It is supported by four Long Island environmental groups, including the Group for the East End and the Nature Conservancy on Long Island.

Advocates estimate the cost would be $60 to $70 annually for the median water user, though the Suffolk County Water Authority said the average household would pay $165 a year. An earlier proposal, to fund wastewater upgrades through a property tax charge, by collecting enough signatures to put it on the ballot, was dropped because of the cost of collecting signatures and deadlines.

Bellone and environmental groups have focused on nitrogen since 2014, when the county released an updated water resources plan and Bellone declared nitrogen “public water enemy No. 1.”

Excess nitrogen has been tied to algal blooms that have hurt shellfish stocks, reduced eel grass acreage and depleted oxygen levels in waters, according to environmentalists and academics. A study of the Great South Bay attributed nearly 70 percent of nitrogen to unsewered homes, although some experts and former county health officials say that more attention should be paid to other sources, such as fertilizers and storm runoff, rather than septic systems.

The Suffolk County Water Authority, which opposes the concept of collecting a fee on water bills for wastewater projects, has said nitrogen is not a top concern in drinking water.

To fight nitrogen, the county has been building a program to permit advanced septic systems, and some East End towns have been requiring installation of the new systems for new construction or expansion.

The major unanswered question has been how to fund the plans. Estimates to connect the two-thirds of Suffolk County homes not sewered have ranged from $7 billion to $8 billion.

Esposito said: "This is the toughest question. Where does the money come from?"

Environmentalists had been encouraged about the possibility of last-minute passage of the referendum after a May 24 meeting with Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford). They said they left the meeting optimistic he would sponsor the bill.

Brooks, in an interview May 28, said: "I’m interested in the bill; I’m considering it. I will review it up in Albany and make a final decision."

Joe Agovino, the senator's spokesman, said this week that while Brooks is "interested in the idea of the bill, there are several items he would like to discuss before sponsoring an accompanying bill in the Senate."

Thiele last week said even if the measure passes this year, it is unlikely there would be enough time to get a referendum on the ballot in November, and a vote would likely take place in 2020 or 2021.

Still, he said, support from county elected officials would be needed. "For anything like this to move forward, there needs to be some indication from the county they want to move ahead with the bill," Thiele said.

Bellone, who is running this year for a third term, has declined to comment about the bill.

His spokesman, Jason Elan, would not answer questions about Bellone's position on the initiative. In a statement, Elan said the administration is focused on spending state and federal money for sewers and state grants for nitrogen-reducing septic systems — funding that totals nearly $400 million.

"Since it will take years to get this funding out the door, it is imperative that we remain focused on getting these projects to the finish line,” he wrote.

Amper, however, said that Bellone has told environmentalists he doesn't want a water-fee question on the ballot at the same time he is running for re-election. Elan did not respond to a question about Amper's assertion.

"How can he be Mr. Clean Water and not let the public decide?" Amper said. He said Suffolk voters have passed tax-carrying referendums to protect the Long Island pine barrens, and East End town voters have passed tax increases to protect the environment.

The Suffolk Legislature presiding officer, DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague), said his position hasn't changed since March, when he expressed concern about the cost to homeowners.

Kevin McDonald, policy adviser for the Nature Conservancy on Long Island, said, "Things are extremely fluid, but nothing is trending our way right now." But, he added, "things are happening extremely fast."

Single-use plastic bag fee included in new state budget



Single-use plastic bag fee included in new state budget


HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -- With the new budget passed by the General Assembly, shoppers will see a $0.10 fee on single-use plastic bags at checkout.

The fee will go into effect this July, and was included in the two-year budget approved by lawmakers this week.

After July 1, 2021, a ban on plastic bags will be implemented.

Once that happens, no retail or grocery store will be permitted to distribute single-use plastic bags at checkout.

The bill will also allow municipalities with existing bag ordinances to keep their bans.

It also allows towns to establish their own fee on paper checkout bags.

Connecticut is the third state in the country to implement a law like this. California and New York already have.

In a statement, Citizens Campaign for the Environment said they applaud CT lawmakers for taking action on plastic pollution.

“CT has an obligation to be protectors of the Long Island Sound and this bill advances that critical objective. Congratulations Connecticut! You have proven yourself once again to be a leader on fighting plastic pollution in our oceans and estuaries. This law gives consumers and businesses alike the time they need to make the switch, and the “opt-in” provision allows municipalities to promote reusable bag use by establishing their own charge on paper bags. This policy is a common sense-approach towards reducing plastic pollution in our environment, saving taxpayers money and more sustainable consumer behavior-Bringing Your Own Bag. We are thrilled that Connecticut has joined the “bag ban wagon,” CCE said.

A win on plastic bags for environmentalists; not so on bottles, plastic straws


A win on plastic bags for environmentalists; not so on bottles, plastic straws

by Kathleen Megan and Maya Moore

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz and Rep. David Michel talking about the plastic bags language.

Customers who fail to grab their reusable shopping bags before heading to the store have two more years to perfect new habits before plastic bags are banned in Connecticut, but in the meantime they will pay a 10-cent tax on every plastic bag they take home.

The tax – and the eventual ban on single-use plastic bags – were approved as part an amendment to the state budget bill passed Monday night in the House of Representatives and approved Tuesday by the Senate. If signed into law by Gov. Ned Lamont, the tax would go into effect Aug. 1, while the ban would begin July 1, 2021.

The tax is expected to raise $30.2 million in fiscal year 2020 and $26.8 million in 2021 for the state’s coffers.

Environmentalists consider the legislation a victory because it revises language in the budget that would have exempted plastic compostable bags from the tax and would have blocked towns from enacting ordinances requiring a charge on paper bags.

Lori Brown, executive director of the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, said her organization brought a lot of pressure to bear on house members and on the governor’s office.

“We really needed to give some kudos to the House,” said Brown, noting that it’s a rarity to get a budget bill amended on the floor. “This was a really bloody battle.”

Brown said it makes sense not to exempt so-called compostable plastic bags from the ban because those bags don’t biodegrade on their own and must be put through a special process.

She is also pleased that the bill now leaves towns free to enact their own ordinances concerning single-use checkout bags as long as the local regulations are equally or more restrictive than the state provisions. This means, she said, a town can pass an ordinance requiring a charge on paper bags if desired.

Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport, said 10 municipalities have already passed some version of a plastic bag ban.

“We wanted to honor their efforts to make sure that whatever we did legislatively at the state level would not preempt those efforts or future efforts by municipalities to create regulations that might actually be stronger than the state’s,” he said. “So that was very important that we clarified that.”

On compostable bags, Steinberg said, “It’s a broader subject that we felt needed further exploration. I believe we’ll be looking at doing a study and we’ll contemplate biodegradable bags and compostable bags more broadly in the broader context of waste management and what’s best for Connecticut, hopefully in the coming year.”

Although the plastic bag ban was hailed by environmentalists, concerns still exist.

For one, by not also banning paper bags, the state could leave itself open to a loophole. Namely, that if paper bags are still available, people will simply switch from plastic to paper bags, which come with their own set of problems. One is that the carbon footprint from their manufacture and transport is actually greater than that of plastic bags.

Paper bags are also more expensive than plastic – as much as 10 times as expensive. That’s why in other places in the U.S., at least part of the fee on plastic bags has gone back to retailers to help compensate them for paper bag costs.

The legislation doesn’t require a charge on paper bags — which is what Wayne Pesce, executive director of Connecticut Food Association, wanted. It doesn’t prevent stores from charging for paper bags either.

Another concern is a lack of consistency. Part of the goal of a statewide mandate was to prevent grocery and other retail chains from facing different regulations from municipality to municipality. By allowing municipalities to still implement their own, potentially stronger, ordinances, the provision in the budget may do less than anticipated to solve that problem.

Pesce, while disappointed with some aspects of the legislation, is still supportive of the state’s efforts.

“It’s a good bill directionally. It’s the right way to go,” he said. “It was just how we got to it.”

But bottle bill, plastic straws untouched

Other environmental measures aimed at reducing the waste stream have not been as successful this legislative session.

On Saturday, the House passed a strike-all amendment that derailed efforts to update bottle redemption legislation in House Bill 7294. The bill would have expanded the types of redeemable bottles to include most teas, juices and sports drinks. It also would have increased the beverage container deposit to 10 cents, up from five cents.

Instead, the House approved an amendment that establishes a task force to study the existing law, assess its efficacy and report back by Dec. 31, 2019.

“We needed the bottle bill fixed and they killed it,” Brown lamented. “We were just absolutely beside ourselves.”

Lou Rosado Burch, Connecticut program director for the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said he is “very disappointed at the legislature’s failure” to address the bottle issue.

“It’s a betrayal of the public interest,” he said.

Rep. Joseph Gresko, D-Stratford and vice-chairman of the legislature’s environment committee, defended the task force, however.

“There have been task forces done before but not everyone was in the room and the other task forces didn’t have the weight of the Speaker’s office behind them,” he said.

“We’ll meet during the course of the rest of this year and then hopefully come back with a recommendation on how to modernize the bottle bill going forward and if that means a series of bills over the course of the next few years then so be it,” Gresko said. “I don’t think that there’s a magic wand out there that’s going to fix all the concerns from everyone all at the same time.”

Meanwhile, a bill that banned single-use plastic straws — House Bill 5385— was the subject of such lengthy debate last week in the House that it was put on hold temporarily.

“It fell into the filibuster abyss,” Brown said. She said it’s unclear whether it will die there or eventually be resurrected.

Two other waste-stream bills — reducing the use of styrofoam — have been passed by a single chamber.

House bill 5384, banning the single-use styrofoam containers — was passed in House and awaits consideration in the Senate. While, a bill that would ban styrofoam trays in schools — Senate Bill 229 — was passed in the Senate but hasn’t been raised yet in the House.