Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Environmentalists In Albany

With rare exception, to say that Jewish legislators – and non-Jewish legislators representing Jewish communities – are environmentalists is putting it mildly. They are so green, you might think they have Irish in their blood.


Of the 11 Senators and 25 Assemblymembers we follow on a regular basis, all but two Senators and three Assemblymembers achieved a perfect environmental voting score, according to the leadership of the Environmental Advocates of New York, the chief advocacy group that tracks these measures.


Climate Change Legislation

The major environmental measure of the year that caught much attention was the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), sponsored by Senator Todd Kaminsky (D – Rockville Centre, Nassau County). The CLCPA is aimed at putting the state on a path to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 85% by 2050 and net zero emissions in all sectors of the economy, according to Kaminsky.

“This measure will not only move one of the world’s largest economies off of fossil fuels, it begins the conversation on how to make this transition equitably and with justice,” said Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates. The measure was signed into law by the governor in July.

It appears Kaminsky has a fan in Iwanowicz, who said, “He was instrumental in the transformation of the Senate from an environmental wasteland to a much greener ecosystem. He took over a weak Senate Environmental Conservation Committee and breathed new life into it.”

Officials with The Business Council of New York State opposed the measure because “in a state that has led the nation in carbon emission reductions (second most in total reductions, second most in percentage reductions of any state, compared to the 1990 baseline), this legislation will require significant additional regulatory restrictions on business, while having minimal additional impact on global carbon emissions,” according to Business Council lobbyist, Ken Pokalsky.

Among the 21 Senators voting against the measure was Senator Simcha Felder (D – Boro Park, Midwood) who received the Environmental Advocates’ Oil Slick Award for worst environmental voting record in 2016. Felder was the only Democrat to vote against the measure. Despite this vote, Felder seems to have become greener since leaving the Republican conference, scoring a 93% correct voting record in 2019, up from 68% the previous year.


E-cycles and E-Scooters

Two Senators who are rarely in sync on legislation voted against a measure to tax or allow local governments to charge for licenses when authorizing proper use of operating electric bicycles and scooters. Senators Liz Krueger (D – East Side, Manhattan) and Felder opposed the measure. Meanwhile, the Environmental Advocates and the Business Council both supported this measure.

The law defines an electric scooter as a device weighing less than one hundred pounds that (a) has handlebars, a floorboard that can be stood upon by the operator, and an electric motor (b) is powered by the electric motor and/or human power, and (c) has a maximum speed of no more than twenty miles per hour on a paved level surface when powered solely by the electric motor.

Business Council lobbyists argued, the authorization of e-scooters also has the potential for new economic benefits. The jobs associated with this new industry as well as the increase in pedestrian traffic in business areas, bodes well for increased economic activities. The costs associated with this new industry to consumers is also negligible since the costs are lower than other forms of transportation and, according to the industry, start at only $1 per ride plus $0.15 to $0.20 per minute. E-scooters will provide safe and inexpensive travel options for those seeking “last mile” transportation, those in “transit deserts,” and thousands of shoppers in urban markets.

Business Council officials see this measure as a means to create greater economic freedom in this age of electronics.

The measure was sponsored in the Assembly by Nily Rozic (D – Flushing, Queens), a native of Jerusalem, Israel. In the bill memo, Rozic argues, “The appeal of e-bicycles and e-scooters is driven by widespread adoption among demographics facing barriers to other modes of transportation, including lower-income riders, female riders, and riders of color. Thousands of food delivery workers in New York City rely on e-bicycles to earn a living wage, while studies of shared e-scooter pilots show that almost half of riders earn less than $50,000 a year.

“By treating them similar to bicycles, this approach has been consistently embraced across the country because granting e-bicycles and e-scooters all the rights and duties of bicycles are intuitive and simple approaches to legislation that is easiest for riders to understand, while immediately creating reasonable expectations for drivers, pedestrians, and others sharing the road.”

This measure was sent to the governor in June for his signature. He has yet to decide whether or not to sign the measure into law.


Banning Chlorpyrifos

It appears the use of chlorpyrifos is on its way out. With 18 negative votes in the Senate, all from Republicans, and 31 negative votes (four from Democrats) and six excused votes in the Assembly, this pesticide that is considered dangerous among environmentalists will be eliminated from aerial and personal use within two years if the governor signs this into law.

The bill was passed in both houses on April 30th and in more than six months the governor has not decided on the merits of the bill. The New York Farm Bureau is urging its members to encourage the governor to veto the bill, arguing, “Farms across New York depend on this product to protect their crops from pests and, in many cases, there is no alternative for use.” Chlorpyrifos will be allowed to be used on apple tree trunks, according to the measure.

For the scientists reading this column, chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide, acaricide and miticide used primarily to control foliage and soil-borne insect pests on a variety of food and feed crops. Chlorpyrifos has been used as a pesticide since 1965 in both agricultural and non-agricultural areas. The largest agricultural market for chlorpyrifos in terms of total pounds of active ingredient is corn.

It is also used on soybeans, fruit and nut trees, Brussels sprouts, cranberries, broccoli and cauliflower as well as other row crops.

Non-agricultural uses include golf courses, turf, green houses, and on non-structural wood treatments such as utility poles and fence posts. It is also registered for use as a mosquito adulticide, and for use in roach and ant bait stations in child resistant packaging.

Chlorpyrifos can cause cholinesterase inhibition in humans at high enough doses; that is, it can overstimulate the nervous system causing nausea, dizziness, confusion and at very high exposures (e.g., accidents or major spills), respiratory paralysis and death.

The environmental scorecard also gave their Oil Slick Award this year to Senator George Amedore (R – Schenectady County), who is in a sprawling marginal district covering several upstate counties and will face a strong challenge from Democrats next year.


Previous article84 Groups Challenge Umass’ Lending Its Name to Anti-Israel Events
Next articleNetanyahu Names Hula Preserve Visitors’ Center after Pro-Israel Former Canadian PM
Marc Gronich is the owner and news director of Statewide News Service. He has been covering government and politics for 44 years, since the administration of Hugh Carey. He is an award-winning journalist. His Albany Beat column appears monthly in The Jewish Press and his coverage about how Jewish life intersects with the happenings at the state Capitol appear weekly in the newspaper. You can reach Mr. Gronich at [email protected].