Posted by: Patricia Salkin | December 24, 2019

New York Governor Signs Environmental Justice Law

This information was written and shared by Columbia Law School Professor Michael Gerrard:

Governor Andrew Cuomo today signed A1564/S2385, new Article 48 of the Environmental Conservation Law.  The new law begins with this declaration:

“It is hereby declared to be the policy of this state that all people, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin or income, have a right to fair treatment and meaningful involvement in the development, implementation and enforcement of laws, regulations and ;policies that affect the quality of the environment.”

“Fair treatment”  is defined to mean “that no group of people … should be disproportionately exposed to pollution or bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from” various facilities and policies, and that no group of people should suffer from inequitable allocation of public resources or financial assistance for environmental protection and stewardship…”

“Meaningful involvement” is defined to mean “the provision of opportunities for citizen participation in decision making that are as reflective of the diversity of interests and perspective found within the affected community as possible…”

Moreover, the law provides that affected communities “be provided as early as possible in the decision making process prior to the selection of a preferred course of action by federal, state, local or tribal agencies,” and be given “the provision of technical data and the assumptions upon which any analyses are based…”

The statute established a Permanent Environmental Justice Advisory Group (PEJAG) with 17 members — five from community-based organization, four from businesses, two from the environmental offices of local governments, and the rest from state or national environmental organizations. The Governor and the leaders of the Legislature appoint the members. PEJAG shall “monitor compliance” with the EJ policy; make recommendations on how to improve the policies; comment on proposed rules; and take other specified actions.

Every state agency “shall be guided in its decision making” by an EJ policy to be adopted by each agency.

The law does not provide for citizen suits or other external enforcement other than PEJAG.

The signing of the law also triggers a January 1, 2020 effective date for New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which Governor Cuomo signed in June.

 


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