New York’s Environmental Advocates and Elected Officials Rally Against Albany’s Efforts to Nullify NYC’s Plastic Bag Law

New York’s Environmental Advocates and Elected Officials Rally Against Albany’s Efforts to Nullify NYC’s Plastic Bag Law


Environmental groups and elected officials call for Assembly, Senate and Governor to Oppose Assembly Bill No. 4883 and Senate Bill No. 4158, which would nullify NYC’s Bring Your Own Bag Law

City Hall, NY -- On Sunday, February 5th a coalition of over 75 environmental advocates representing communities across New York City and State stood with New City Council Members, State Senators and Assembly Members on the steps of City Hall to oppose Assembly Bill No. 4883 and Senate Bill No. 4158. These bills would nullify NYC’s Bring Your Own Bag Law -- the City’s thoroughly-vetted, democratically-adopted, easy-to-follow, environmentally-sound, Bring Your Own Bag Law, set to go into effect on February 15th.

Every year, New Yorkers throw away 10 billion plastic bags, which account for 7,000 garbage truck trips to landfills, at a cost of more than $12 million to NYC taxpayers. Too often, bags also wind up in our trees, storm drains, and oceans.

Bring Your Own Bag Laws have been successfully adopted in hundreds of cities, states, and countries. This bill would only nullify New York City’s law, even though similar laws will remain in place in Suffolk, a county with more than 1 million people, and also in the City of Long Beach.

Albany’s dubious effort to nullify New York City’s law is opposed by every environmental group in New York, as well as the editorial boards of the Daily News, New York Times, Newsday, Crain’s, and the Albany Times Union.

"Albany is aiming for yet another delay, this time until after a new City Council is seated in 2018. The Legislature's new bill prevents this Council from amending or reauthorizing their own law, clearly hoping that the next Council will not have the political will to stand up to Albany's bullying," said Marcia Bystryn, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters. "We are extremely disappointed in the Senate and Assembly for advancing a bill that is bad for the environment, bad fiscally, and just plain bad policy by unfairly singling out only New York City. For these reasons, Governor Cuomo must veto this bill if it makes it to his desk."

"Plastic bags littering our parks and streets are a 90,000-ton environmental problem in New York City, and we took the most reasonable option available to solve it," said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. "Albany needs to stop getting in the way of smart government."

Jennie Romer, attorney and founder of plasticbaglaws.org, said: “I’ve studied carryout bag laws for a decade and I’ve seen that the most successful carryout bag laws include a fee component, either a fee on all carryout bags or a ban on thin plastic bags and a fee on all other carryout bags. These preemption and moratorium bills are aimed squarely and exclusively at blocking NYC’s fee by prohibiting the imposition of any tax, fee, or local charge on a carryout bag in a city of one million people or more. At this time of uncertainty regarding federal environmental protections, and with progressive ideals under attack, it’s all the more important that our local governments have all effective tools available to protect the environment and we must protect our local progressive victories. NYC’s carryout bag law is a particularly symbolic victory and the plastics industry knows it. The ‘American Progressive Bag Alliance’ - the plastic bag arm of one of the biggest plastics industry groups in the country - has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of disclosed lobbying funds fighting NYC’s bag law. This preemption fight is the final hurdle. Let’s show America that local grassroots organizing can sometimes trump corporate lobbyists, let’s #StopPreemption.”

New York State Senator Liz Krueger said: "At a time when Washington is threatening to take away so many of our protections, towns, cities, and counties must be allowed to find their own solutions to environmental problems. The New York City Council spent years negotiating and compromising to come up with their bag fee - a proven approach that has been effective around the world. Now, instead of helping, Albany is planning to overturn the city's law without even a single hearing this session. This isn't how our state should work. I urge my colleagues to respect local democracy and reject short-sighted preemption."

"Wrong on policy, influenced by plastics industry money and overriding the will of the City Council and Mayor, the State Assembly is driving down the wrong lane in advancing legislation to again delay the plastic bag fee law. Millions of Americans in dozens of cities around the nation have switched to reusable grocery bags without missing a beat -- the major impact has been cleaner streets, parks and waterways," said Eric A. Goldstein, NYC Environment Director ‎at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

"With the federal government set to eliminate hard-fought climate protections, the fate of our environment rests with state and local policymakers," said New York City Council Member Brad Lander. "Yet Assembly Bill No. 4883 and Senate Bill No. 4158 would prevent New York City from pursuing an effective policy that has reduced environmentally harmful plastic and single-use bag waste all across the world. Now is a time for innovation at the local level to protect the environment and address climate change, not for rolling back the progress we've made through thoughtful, deliberative policy making. I strongly urge all New Yorkers to oppose Albany’s attempts to consign NYC to the proliferation of plastic bags in our waste stream for years to come."

Melissa Iachan, Senior Staff Attorney at New York Lawyers for Public Interest said: “Allowing this bill to move forward would be contrary to the principles of democracy and home rule.  The people of New York City spoke through their representatives on the City Council to pass the BYOBag law, and for the state to retroactively nullify the law is counter-democratic. NYLPI strongly supports the City law, which will reduce waste going to landfills and help diminish the number of polluting trucks on streets in some of the most environmentally overburdened neighborhoods in the city.”

“As New Yorkers, we need to send a message to every community that when it comes to protecting current and future generations from environmental catastrophe, there is no turning back,” said New York City Council Member Margaret S. Chin. “Assembly Bill 4883 and Senate Bill 4158 would toss the efforts of a wide coalition that includes NYC schoolchildren, environmental advocates and everyone in between into the trash bin – along with the billions of single-use bags sent to landfills every year. It is time for New York to move forward by enabling people to think globally, and empowering municipalities to act locally.”

"Now more than ever, it is important for New York to be an example in implementing progressive policy,” said New York City Council Member Antonio Reynoso. “The bag bill has strong support across the city, and the City is doing its part to ensure that all New Yorkers can access reusable bags. It's time for us to implement the bag fee and start making a dramatic impact on NYC's waste stream."

"With the prospect of more and more executive orders stripping America of its environmental protections, New York must be the centerpiece of combating climate change for the next four years," said Council Member Donovan Richards, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. "Blocking the bag fee is a step in the wrong direction for our city and state, especially with solid evidence from other municipalities showing that this policy truly will work to decrease our dependence on plastic bags. The Rockaways, Southern Brooklyn and Staten Island suffered the severe impacts of climate change not too long ago with Superstorm Sandy, which is why it's even more important that we react and decrease the negative effects we have on the environment sooner, rather than later."

"Carryout bag fees around the world have proven to be a successful tool in dramatically reducing plastic bag litter and pollution both in communities and waterways. A recent study by the World Economic Forum found that there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish by 2050 if we don't change our behavior and dramatically reduce the amount of plastic we manufacture, use and dispose of. Now is the time to support cities like New York in their quest to send zero waste to landfill by reducing disposable goods, such as plastic bags, and switching to reusable goods, such as washable, durable shopping bags," said Sarah Currie-Halpern, Chair of the Manhattan Solid Waste Advisory Board. "Furthermore, New York City and other major cities are making sure low and moderate income residents are not impacted by carryout bag fees, either exempting them from the fee or giving them free reusable bags."

“More plastic bags equals more fracking and drilling for dirty fossil fuels,” said Eric Weltman, a Brooklyn-based Senior Organizer for Food & Water Watch. “Our legislators should support, not undermine, New York City’s efforts to reduce plastic litter and the use of fossil fuels that plastic bags are made from.”

Patrick Diamond, of the Surfrider NYC Rise Above Plastics Campaign, said: “Surfrider Foundation, NYC Chapter is a local organization made up of New York City volunteers dedicated to keeping our city, city beaches, and city waterways clean and accessible to all New Yorkers. Surfrider Foundation, NYC Chapter believes strongly that the NYC bag bill deserves a chance. The New York City Council should be free to pass thoughtful and measured legislation to address significant trash and litter problems affecting our local environment and costing New York City taxpayers large sums of money to clean-up every year. A small fee that can be avoided by use of a reusable bag is nothing compared to the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars spent each year to manage NYC's trash problem.”  

Ling Tsou, Co-founder of United for Action, said: “The NYS legislature has introduced Assembly bill A1750/Senate bill S362 intended to preempt the NYC bag bill by prohibiting local municipalities from imposing fees on carryout bags. This is totally unacceptable. Now a one-year moratorium bill A4883/S4158 has also been introduced. This moratorium bill is the same as preemption. New York City should be able to take initiative and use their authority to make laws to reduce waste and pollution, protect our environment, fight climate change and improve quality of life for their citizens. There should be no further delay in the implementation of the NYC bag bill. We urge our NYS legislators to do the right thing by rejecting the preemption and the moratorium bills.”

Jacquelyn Ottman, Founder and Editor, WeHateToWaste.com  said: “A similar fee on plastic bags resulted in a near immediate 60% decrease in plastic bag use in Washington D.C.  Even a small fee of 5-cents gets shoppers thinking twice before they take what is often an unnecessary bag. This is exactly the type of change in consumption culture and leadership stance that New York City should be embracing and setting an example to so many other cities around the U.S. and the world.”  

Joan Wolf, of the Hewitt School, said:”As the environmental club faculty advisor for the Hewitt School in NYC, I want to express our strong opposition to this preemption bill. My students have been working for three years with students in other NYC schools to convince the City Council to pass legislation, which they did, only to have the State Senate try to interfere with this process. To quote my students, who spoke at Mayor de Blasio's press conference after the bill passed: ‘There is a Kenyan proverb that has resonated with us since we have been involved in this process: “Treat the earth well; it was not given to you by your parents; it was loaned to you by your children.” Our generation has been left with the responsibility to reverse the negative climate impacts from previous generations. The usage of plastic bags has greatly affected air quality, wildlife, ocean life, and is a contributing factor to climate change. The effects of climate change could be devastating. In 200 years, City Hall, where we now stand, could be on its own island due to sea levels rising.’”

###