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Will any of the environmental bills in the New York State Legislature become law this year?

Green business leaders lobby at the State Capitol for anti-climate change measures on May 7, 2024.
Karen DeWitt
New York Public News Network
Green business leaders lobby at the State Capitol for anti-climate change measures on May 7, 2024.

The New York Senate and Assembly celebrated a belated Earth Day this week by acting on environmental bills. But the two houses voted on different measures and lawmakers could not predict if any of the legislation will become law in 2024.

Senate Democrats touted their package of bills, approved Tuesday, that includes what’s known as the Climate Change Superfund Act. It would create a dedicated fund of $3 billion each year, financed by the major oil companies, to combat climate change.

Other measures include limiting toxins in air emissions, shifting state buildings to clean energy sources, and creating more electric charging stations in state-owned parking garages.

Sen. Liz Krueger, who sponsors the measure, said bills to reverse the effects of a warming Earth are more important than any other issue facing lawmakers.

“Because if we don't get this right, it doesn't matter what else you want,” Krueger said, referring to lobbyists who are asking for changes to health care policy or mass transit improvements, among other items.

“If we don't have a planet to live on, none of this matters,” she said.

However, the Climate Change Superfund bill did not advance in the Assembly. The lower house instead acted on a different bill, the New York Packaging Reduction and Recycling Infrastructure Act. 

This legislation would eventually cut plastic packaging by 50% and outlaw a form of plastics recycling known as chemical recycling. It was approved by two committees and was to be discussed in the closed-door Democratic majority party conference, where major decisions on legislation are made.

The plastics and chemical industries oppose the measure, which is stalled in the Senate's Finance Committee. Senate Environmental Committee Chair Peter Harckham said the measure is still being revised.

“We continue to work on it,” Harckham said. “Honestly, we're still in the sausage-making phase.”

The Assembly also moved forward a measure to expand the state’s bottle law, but that bill is stuck in the Senate. 

Another key piece of legislation that is currently stalled is the NY HEAT Act.

It would, among other things, prevent gas companies from charging customers for installing new gas lines within 100 feet of a home or business.

Gov. Kathy Hochul put portions of the HEAT Act into her budget proposal, but those provisions died in the state Assembly.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said he’s open to discussing the provisions in the remaining weeks of the legislative session.

“We’ll keep talking, and hopefully we can come to agreement by the end of the session,” Heastie said on April 24.

Harckham said even though Democrats lead both legislative houses, they don’t always see eye to eye on everything.

“Sometimes there are bills that they pass that we don't get to,” Harckham said. “It's just the way it works.”

That disconnect has frustrated some advocates.

A group of green business leaders, including 7th Generation, and sustainable furniture and cosmetics companies, came to the Capitol to lobby for the bills and other changes to promote clean energy and a green economy.

Bob Rossi with the NY Sustainable Business Council said Hochul and the Legislature aren't showing any true leadership. Rossi said his group is very disappointed with the recently approved state budget, which he said does not include any new funding to combat climate change.

“Our budget demonstrates a lack of leadership or improper leadership — irresponsible, I'd say, leadership,” Rossi said. “That is why we're here today. Because we need to make up for lost ground from the budget.”

The session is scheduled to end in early June.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.