Albany, NY - October 28, 2016 - Public health, environmental, justice, and labor groups have come together issuing a call to Governor Andrew Cuomo to finally enact and fully fund the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) of 2006 in his SFY2017-18 Executive Budget. The bipartisan legislation followed reports of the impacts particulate matter was having on school children, and was signed into law in 2006, to take effect in 2010. However, it has been delayed in each Enacted Budget since, meaning the state fleet – as well as those of contractors on projects like the reconstruction of LaGuardia Airport – are violating the spirit of the law and compromising public health.
Caitlin O’Brien, environmental health associate at Environmental Advocates of New York said, “Governor Cuomo has enabled DERA delays, and kids have been breathing dirty air spewed from state-owned diesel trucks as a result. It is time for New York to walk the talk on clean air. The Cuomo Administration has stated that environmental justice is a priority – that requires making it a budget priority for the Governor. We encourage him to take the lead by fully funding this program in the next Executive Budget, and rejecting any legislative attempts at further delay.”
Kristina Wieneke, director of public policy at the American Lung Association of the Northeast said, “Over 10 years ago, New York passed a law to clean up the state's fleet of heavy duty vehicles highly-polluting diesel engines. For the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers affected by lung disease who are acutely aware that ‘when you can't breathe, nothing else matters,’ it is time for Governor Cuomo to finally make this important law a reality.”
DERA’s purpose is to protect public health by cutting dirty diesel emissions – one of the largest sources of harmful fine particulate matter – by replacing or retrofitting the state’s fleet of diesel vehicles (including contractors). However, despite the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recently calling on the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to improve national air emissions and fuel standards, New York is not in compliance with its own law. In fact, DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos told legislators earlier this year that only 80-percent of the state’s diesel vehicles are compliant with DERA; contractor compliance remains unclear. Environmental Advocates has submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to several leading state agencies over the summer which, with the exception of the New York Power Authority (NYPA), have yet to return the information requested.
According to the American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2016 report, more than half of all Americans are exposed to unhealthy levels of air pollutants, which cause respiratory diseases like asthma, heart disease, and lung cancer. In New York, more than 1.7 million residents suffer from asthma alone, which according to the Office of the State Comptroller costs taxpayers $1.3 billion each year to treat.