Overwhelming Support for NYC’s "Bring Your Own Bag Bill" // Request for Governor Cuomo to Veto Pre-Emption

Overwhelming Support for NYC’s "Bring Your Own Bag Bill" // Request for Governor Cuomo to Veto Pre-Emption

New York's environmental and climate justice groups, labor unions, good government organizations, local elected officials around NYS, business leaders & editorial boards overwhelmingly support New York City’s "Bring Your Own Bag Law" and urge Governor Cuomo to veto state legislation (A.4883/S.4158) which would unfairly pre-empt NYC's new law.

New York's environmental leaders have submitted formal memos of opposition to A.4883/S.4158 to the Governor’s office:

Many more statements from environmental & climate justice groups in opposition to Albany's efforts to NYC's Bring Your Own Bag Bill can be found below

More than 50 of New York’s labor unions, environmental and climate justice organizations, good government, and community groups have signed this sign-on letter in strong opposition to A. 4883 / S. 4158, which is in opposition to both the state’s environmental protection goals and the Municipal Home Rule Law. In addition to all of the groups listed above, the letter includes:

NY Hotel Trades Council 
Greater New York Laborers-Employers Corporation & Education Trust 
Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, UFCW
Communications Workers of America (CWA)
Common Cause New York
New York Lawyers in the Public Interest
NYC Environmental Justice Alliance
Food & Water Watch
NY/NJ Baykeeper
And many more. Read the full letter here.

Elected Officials to Protect New York, New York State Progressive Electeds Network, Local Progress and Campaign to Defend Local Solutions -- representing nearly 60 local elected officials from 41 Jurisdictions around New York State -- Strongly Urge Governor Cuomo to Veto A. 4883 / S. 4158, which would roll back progress to protect the environment and address climate change.

  • These local representatives urge Governor Cuomo to oppose any legislation that would prohibit New York’s local jurisdictions from advancing effective policies for reducing environmentally harmful plastic and single-use bag waste. Read the full letter here.

The Editorial Boards of the New York Daily News, New York Times, Albany Times Union, Crain's New York Business, Newsday, and AM New York all support NYC's "Bring Your Own Bag" Law, and Oppose Efforts by the New York State Legislature to Overturn and Pre-empt it:

New York Daily News
"All who bigfoot the City Council will be saddled with the shame of subverting a duly elected government body — and the untimely liability, as the new Congress weighs blocking state legislatures on matters such as gun control, of having no high ground to stand on. Council members approved the measure last year by a healthy majority and even agreed to delay the nickel charge until Feb. 15. In further goodwill and good sense, the Council also required the Department of Sanitation to study the fee’s effects, allowing for future adjustments or even the fee’s abolition based on the facts. Pfft, who needs facts when proud ignorance backed up by bully tactics can do the trick."
The New York Times
"Rest easy, humans of New York City, for your overlords in the Legislature in Albany have voted to protect you from your own City Council and mayor and that irritating thing you call “democracy.” ... [The City Council] passed a law requiring stores to charge a nickel for each disposable plastic or paper shopping bag, to encourage people to carry reusable bags. But the State Legislature this week voted to block the city’s duly enacted law, doing the bidding of the plastic-bag industry ... Now it’s up to Gov. Andrew Cuomo to save New York’s law. He can veto the bill, stand up for his hometown, for home rule, for common sense and self-government, and for the environment. Whom will he side with — eight million New Yorkers or the plastic bagmen of Albany? This is an easy call; Mr. Cuomo knows what to do."
Albany Times Union
"Many communities in Westchester and Suffolk counties, and hundreds across the U.S., have similar rules, aimed at encouraging shoppers to make the transition to reusable plastic or cloth bags ... We've seen the error of hidebound state legislatures stifling local initiative before ... They should stand aside and let the new law take effect. If it works the way supporters hope, a statewide bill on plastic bags should come next."
Crain's New York Business
"[T]wo basic purposes of government are to protect individuals from the harmful actions of others and to help society at large. Bag fees do that. Other cities have cut plastic-bag use by 60% or more, reducing litter and keeping the planet that much greener for future generations. New York City, meanwhile, is spending $12 million each year to dump 10 billion plastic bags in landfills. Many more bags get stuck in trees, storm drains, sewage-treatment plants and recycling machinery ... Politicians opposing the bag fee have come up with a slew of flimsy rationales ... Their rhetoric sets new standards for lameness. Surely Albany has better things to do than micromanage localities that adopt reasonable measures to protect the environment and change residents' habits for the better."
"It’s a smart idea that should change behavior. City residents use a staggering 9 billion disposable bags a year and don’t recycle most. The bags foul storm drains, waterways, trees and beaches. They harm birds and fish. The fee might be enough to make a difference. Other cities have tried similar laws and seen an impact. A survey of residents in Washington, D.C., for instance, showed that plastic bag use dropped by 60 percent after a nickel fee was adopted. And fewer bags were found in the waterways there ... If New York City’s law works, the benefits could be measured in far more than nickels. We’d be saving the environment, one bag at a time."
AM New York
"The city’s efforts to stop plastic bag waste are laudable — residents use as many as 9 billion disposable bags a year. Most end up in storm drains, waterways or on beaches. They harm birds and fish. They have no upside. And, bag usage dropped in cities where fees were adopted. NYC’s plan exempts people on food stamps, and spares bags for takeout, and for wrapping medicine, meat and vegetables. And NYC has handed out reusable bags for free ... Experience shows that residents deal with a bag fee by changing their behavior. And that’s what this is about. By vetoing the bill, Cuomo would allow the fee to take effect on Feb. 15. Then, state and city officials should study the impact, and remedy unintended problems. Residents have every opportunity to do the right thing, and never pay a nickel. Day by day, it’ll make a difference."

New York’s Environmental Organizations are Overwhelmingly Opposed to Efforts in the New York State Legislature to Overturn NYC’s Bring Your Own Bag Law. Here's what they have to say about it:

Eric A. Goldstein, NYC Environment Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council: "Cities from San Francisco to Portland (ME) and Seattle to Washington DC are proving that restrictions on single use plastic bags mean cleaner streets, greener parks and less polluted waterways.  Doesn't State Senator Felder have anything better to do, on the eve of the new Trump Administration, ‎than to try to upend in Albany a progressive, environmentally sensible statute that was enacted last year, after full and fair debate, by a majority of our locally elected  New York City Councilmembers?" 

Marcia Bystryn, President of the New York League of Conversation Voters: "We are extremely disappointed in the Senate and Assembly for advancing a bill that is bad for the environment, bad for New York's budget, 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." 

Peter Iwanowicz, Environmental Advocates of New York: "Since state legislators have failed to act New York City took the initiative to lower the harm disposable bags put on the environment and the burden placed on the budget. It is ridiculous that state legislators are now doubling down on their failure, by blocking the progress being sought by local leaders. How will they then be able to effectively speak out when Trump’s policies work to undermine the progress they have achieved as state lawmakers?  Disposable bags harm the environment and are costly for governments to manage.  These bags are used for an average of 12 minutes, yet they remain in our landfills, oceans, parks, and beaches for thousands of years." 

Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment: “Plastic bags are an environmental and economic burden on our communities and we have the right to tackle the problem locally. From Los Angeles to Washington DC to the UK, a small fee on single-use bags prompted consumers to switch to reusable bags. These cities saved money, reduced litter, protected coastal waters, and reduced waste.  NYC should not be prevented from enjoying these same benefits. CCE is excited to see NYC’s BYOBag law go into effect next month and urges state leaders to halt efforts that would undercut this, or any other, plastic pollution prevention law.”

Cecil Corbin-Mark, Deputy Director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice said: "For years, the highest concentration of New Yorkers' waste has been placed in facilities located in communities of color and low-income.  Waste from New York City is often exported to landfills located in environmental justice communities nationwide. No longer should these communities have to deal with the disproportionate burden of waste, and the exposure to its adverse environmental and health impacts. A reduction in the use of plastic bags is one necessary step in the process of making the communities we fight for everyday cleaner and healthier."

Peter H. Kostmayer, CEO of Citizens Committee for New York City, said: "What does it say about us that we are unwilling to either pay five cents for a plastic bag or bring our own reusable bag when shopping? Does it indicate the level of sacrifice we as Americans are willing to make to save our environment? Countries far poorer than ours have given up plastic bags in the fight against waste and climate change. Is it really too much to ask of ourselves? Are plastic bags something we can do without or at least reduce in the struggle to save our planet for our children and for their children? It’s not someone else’s decision. It’s ours. Do the right thing."

Jennie Romer, attorney and founder of plasticbaglaws.org“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. S362 is 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. 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 hurtle. Let’s show America that local grassroots organizing can sometimes Trump corporate lobbyists, let’s #StopPreemption.”

Tom Outerbridge, General Manager, Sims Municipal Recycling said: "As the principal processor of residential recyclables New York City, Sims Municipal Recycling supports the City’s efforts to reduce the quantity of plastic bags in the waste stream. Plastic bags clog recycling machinery and contaminate other recyclable materials.  Furthermore, markets for the plastic bags we separate are limited to non-existent, as its recycling partner, we hope the City will retain the right to implement measures, such as the proposed bag fee, to create a long term sustainable waste management system.”

Melissa Iachan, Senior Staff Attorney at New York Lawyers for Public Interest: “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.”

Sandra Meola, Communications and Outreach Associate, NY/NJ Baykeeper: "With a population of over 8 million people, New York City must take progressive policy action with a bag fee to prevent and reduce damage caused by plastic pollution. Single-use plastic bags littler streets and parks, clog sewer systems, and are increasingly polluting our waterways and  likely entering our food chain. It's time to make this sustainable change for future generations, clean water, and healthy ecosystems."

Debby Lee Cohen, Executive Director and Founder of Cafeteria Culture: “NYC plastic bag litter is an environmental and health problem run amok,” said . “Research shows that plastics originating from land account for 80% of global marine pollution, they are a toxic ingredient of our seafood chain, and plastic bags are #2 on the list of deadliest marine litter. Our NY State legislators should take responsibility to understand the latest scientific research and protect the health of our marine wildlife, our local waterways and oceans, and our communities for generations to come.”

Rita Pasarell, Board Chair at Neighbors Allied for Good Growth in North Brooklyn: "The New York State bag fee preemption bill is a direct attempt to undercut radically important environmental legislation passed by New York City.  The NYC bag law has overwhelming public support, and would reduce the nearly 10 billion plastic bags citywide that clog our recycling machines, block our sewers, and burden our landscape. Neighbors Allied for Good Growth urges all state officials to vote no on the bag fee preemption bill."

Mark Dunlea, of the Green Education and Legal, Fund: "The streets, parks and waterways of New York City are littered with the debris of the plastic bag industry. The City Council and Mayor after much debate passed legislation to take action to protect taxpayers and the environment by ending the $12 million in tax dollars wasted annually to landfill plastic bags. New York City elected officials should be able to take steps to benefit local residents without industry forces and their campaign contributions being able to go shopping in the State legislature, seeking to influence out-of-city elected officials to override home rule.”

Lisa DiCaprio, of the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter: "State Senator Felder's bill will only protect the plastic bag industry, which has spread misinformation about the recycling potential for plastic bags that cause environmental damage by polluting our waterways and oceans. Cities in New York State should have the right to impose fees on single-use plastic and paper carryout bags, especially since our municipal governments are responsible for the waste generated by these bags. We call on the NYS Senate to take political leadership by placing people and the planet first by voting no on Senate Bill S362."

Ling Tsou, Co-founder of United for Action: "The New York State Senate bill S362 is intended to preempt the New York City bill Int 209 by prohibiting local municipalities from imposing fees on carryout bags. This is totally unacceptable. New York City should be able to take initiative and use their authority to reduce waste and pollution, protect our environment, fight climate change and improve quality of life for their citizens. New York State legislature should pass a similar bill modeled on the New York City bill to preserve and protect the environment and benefit everyone living in New York State. We urge our New York State senators to do the right thing and lead by example by rejecting S362."

Sarah Womer, Director of Community Engagement at Riverkeeper: “New York City’s fee on carry-out bags will reduce plastic bag litter in our waterways, including the Hudson and East rivers. It's a positive step toward protecting the health of the water and the life within it. Together we must stand up for the right of local government to protect the local environment. Riverkeeper urges members of the public to call their state representatives in Albany to urge them to reject Senate Bill S362." 

Patrick Diamond, of the Surfrider NYC Rise Above Plastics Campaign: “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, opposes Sen. Felder's Bill No. S362.  The New York City Council, as well as other municipal governments in New York State, 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.”

Sarah Currie-Halpern, Chair of the Manhattan Solid Waste Advisory Board: "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 . "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."

Christopher Chin, Executive Director of The Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education (COARE): "Single-use plastic bags may seem convenient in some instances, but any convenience is far outweighed by their impact - which is far-reaching and ubiquitous.  You cannot walk a single city block without seeing an errant plastic bag, and, indeed, every square inch of the planet is affected.  However, we can do something about it.  Local legislation to reduce or eliminate the consumption of single-use bags has proven to be not only effective, but absolutely necessary." 

Joan Wolf, of the Hewitt School: “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 the final hearing for the bill: ‘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.’”