New York, NY - April 20, 2015 - Kicking off Earth Week, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today showcased a variety of statewide environmental protection initiatives that his office has championed, and provided a map demonstrating the reach and impact of the Environmental Protection Bureau over the past year.
"Having a healthy and sustainable New York is not only important for today’s residents, but also critical to ensuring the well-being and strength of our state for generations to come,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Just this year, my office has taken action against those who polluted our groundwater on Long Island, directed resources to improve water quality in New York City and defended the right of New Yorkers to navigate public waters in Adirondack Park. But while we have made great progress in safeguarding our environment, there is still work to be done. This Earth Week, we must continue to reaffirm our commitment to protecting and improving the natural resources in our state and on our planet.”
Recent environmental victories include:
On Long Island
- Obtained $5.31 million from owners of industrial facilities in the New Cassel Industrial Area in North Hempstead to recover the costs of the state’s investigation of groundwater pollution emanating from the site and related natural resource damages. Toxic industrial chemicals from the site had reached local drinking water supply wells.
- Resolved contempt of court charges against Gerald Cohen, the owner of a former aviation plant in Port Jefferson Station, related to the cleanup of petroleum and hazardous wastes dumped at the site. The settlement gives the state access to the site to perform cleanup, includes a fine and holds Cohen liable for costs.
In New York City
- With the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), awarded $11 million in grants from the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund, a community grant fund created from money obtained by the state in a 2011 settlement with ExxonMobil over its Greenpoint, Brooklyn oil spill. The environmental improvement grants will be combined with $23.8 million in matching contributions from the recipients, bringing the total investment in Greenpoint to nearly $35 million.
- Sued New York City landlord Florence Edelstein for widespread violations of state oil spill prevention laws that govern the safe handling and storage of heating oil at residential properties. Edelstein had been found liable for 90 violations of state laws at 25 properties in the Bronx and Manhattan.
- Joined by the DEC, reached an agreement with New York City directing $960,000 to improving water quality in the upper East River and Long Island Sound. The City’s payment is in partial resolution of penalties assessed by the State for falling behind on scheduled upgrades to nitrogen pollution controls at its Tallman Island wastewater treatment plant in Queens.
In the Hudson River Valley:
- With DEC, reached an agreement with Gary Prato, a Putnam County landowner, to clean up an illegal landfill that discharged pollution into the Croton Falls Reservoir – a waterbody that has historically provided drinking water to New York City. The agreement also requires Prato to pay $245,000 in penalties.
- Joined the Attorneys General of Connecticut and Vermont in challenging recently-issued rules of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that govern the long-term storage of highly radioactive nuclear wastes on-site at more than 100 reactors around the country – including the three Indian Point reactors in Westchester County – for 60 or more years after the reactors close.
In Central New York:
- Obtained a court order against a Cortland County property owner for allegedly causing the flooding of a cemetery leading to the desecration of grave sites, and the disinterment and reburial of several bodies. The order requires James C. Stevens, III of Cortlandville to cease diverting stormwater from his property unless he secures a DEC permit to do so. A previous suit filed by Attorney General Schneiderman alleged that Stevens was illegally diverting water from his property in violation of state environmental and public nuisance laws.
- Resolved a suit brought against Triple Cities Metal Finishing Corp. Zurenda Enterprises, and Binghamton Realty for allegedly contaminating soils and groundwater in the Hillcrest neighborhood of Fenton in Broome County with hazardous substances. The Consent Decree requires the companies to pay the State a total of $55,000.
- Won a case against the owners and operators of a car-crushing facility in Town of Volney in Oswego County who illegally discharged petroleum products, metals, PCBs and other chemicals into groundwater and an adjacent wetland
- Settled a civil case against Gary A. Royce, Jr. for improperly installing septic systems in a subdivision located in the Town of Granby in Oswego County, resulting in odors and raw sewage seeping to a number of yards. The settlement requires Royce to replace, at his own expense, approximately 35 septic systems in the subdivision.
In The North Country:
- Won a ruling upholding the public's right to travel on recreationally navigable waters in the Adirondack Park. The courts agreed with Attorney General Schneiderman that the Adirondack waterway between Lilypad Pond and Shingle Shanty Brook was navigable-in-fact, and that attempts by local landowners to deny public travel along this state waterway are illegal and constitute a public nuisance.
In Western New York:
- Reached a court-ordered settlement requiring The Juice Factory Corp., based in Monroe County, to pay the state nearly $80,000 for repeatedly violating multiple provisions of New York’s Bottle Bill. Investigations revealed that, for more than two years, the company collected deposits on beverage containers it sold in Monroe and Erie counties but failed to pay the unclaimed deposits to the state, as required by law.
- Joined the DEC and Livingston County in reaching an agreement with Akzo Nobel addressing environmental impacts relating to the collapse of the company’s salt mine in The agreement requires the company to pay $20 million toward local environmental restoration projects, including drinking water supply protection, water supply infrastructure improvements, environmental monitoring, and other projects.
- Reintroduced legislation to ban “microbeads,” tiny plastic particles that are an emerging pollution threat in New York waters. The Microbead-Free Waters Act will prohibit the sale in New York of personal care products that contain microbeads. The Attorney General also released a report entitled Unseen Threat: How Microbeads Harm New York Waters, Wildlife, Health And Environment that explains the scope of the environmental and public health risks posed by microbeads, and outlines solutions to address this insidious pollution.
- Sent letters to Toys R Us and other major retailers in New York State reminding them of their legal obligation to ensure the safety of children’s products. The letter focused on toys that contain toxic chemicals that present risks to human health. The Attorney General also released a tip sheet to help consumers protect their children from toxics in children’s products.
- Released a report that, for the first time, details the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme rainfall events across New York State. The report, Current And Future Trends In Extreme Rainfall Across New York State, highlights this disturbing weather trend in recent years in virtually every part of the state. The report underscores the need to focus on greater resiliency planning and response measures in order to respond to climate change’s predicted impacts in New York.
- Proposed legislation that would require electric and gas utilities to ensure that the critical services they provide to New Yorkers are properly protected from the impacts of climate change. The proposal would require these utilities to assess their systems’ vulnerability to climate change, and to document for public review and comment how they intend to address these vulnerabilities.
- Leading a coalition of states, NY joined clean air and public health advocate groups in reaching a court-ordered settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that required the agency to finalize updated air pollution standards for new residential wood heaters. Wood stoves, pellet stoves, masonry heaters, central wood boilers, forced-air furnaces, and other residential wood heaters have proliferated in many areas of New York. The final standards, which hadn’t been revised in 25 years, were issued by EPA on February 4th of this year.
- After a more than two-year legal effort, EPA agreed with Attorney General Schneiderman and acted on its responsibility under the Clean Air Act to regulate emissions of methane– a powerful climate change pollutant – from the oil and gas industry. The regulations, to be proposed this summer, will require the oil and gas industry to limit methane emissions fromnew and modified equipment.
- Reached agreements with two natural gas development companies that will ensure the public disclosure of information on the financial risks that hydraulic fracturing – commonly referred to as fracking – poses to their investors. Under the agreements, Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and EOG Resources committed to providing publicly accessible information on the financial risks associated with of regulation fracking, litigation related to fracking, and the environmental impacts of their fracking operations.
- Led a coalition of states in backing the “Waters of the United States Proposed Rule,” a federal proposal designed to ensure that the nation’s lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands receive proper protection under the federal Clean Water Act. The types of waters covered by the Act has become muddled by recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, potentially stripping large numbers of waterways of federal protection and leaving them vulnerable to pollution.
- Led a 13-member coalition in fighting back against a court challenge – brought largely by coal-producing states – to a 2010 settlement that committed EPA to adopt climate change pollution emissions standards for new and existing fossil-fuel electric generating power plants. The EPA has undertaken the rulemaking process for two rules to establish these standards for power plants, in accordance with the settlement agreement.