Sen. Metzger highlights environmental victories in new state budget

Legislative Gazette photo by Eveline Levin
Sen. Jen Metzger, a member of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, was in New Paltz this week to discuss conservation highlights in the new state budget.

Senator Jen Metzger held a press conference outside the Village Hall in New Paltz Thursday to detail several initiatives in the new state budget aimed at advancing environmental protections and energy conservation efforts.

One of the biggest budget wins for green groups this year is a $300 million allocation for the Environmental Protection Fund.

Other victories on the environmental front include $3 billion for clean water efforts, including water infrastructure upgrades across the state; banning single-use plastic bags; and requiring large producers of food waste — those that generate more than two tons per week — to donate edible food waste and compost the inedible portion if they are within 25 miles of an organics recycling facility.

“This budget shows very strong leadership by our state when it comes to protecting the environment and addressing the threat of climate change,” said Senator Metzger, whose election last fall helped tip the state Senate for the Democrats. “From accelerating investments in renewable energy to reducing food waste and funding local clean water projects, the budget includes a wide range of initiatives that help our communities address the environmental challenges they face.”

Food waste was highlighted as a major problem, not only in the state, but throughout the country. Senator Metzger noted that “forty percent of the food produced in the U.S. ends up in landfills, while we have about 2.5 million New Yorkers that are struggling to get enough food to eat. From an environmental perspective it generates about 15 percent of our methane emissions.”

Legislation that passed in the new budget will now require large food generators that produce 2 tons of food waste or more per week to sort that waste and donate the edible portions. If they are within 25 miles of a composting facility, they will also be held responsible for transporting the non-edible waste to that facility.

Metzger, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee,  also touted a new Carbon Farming Pilot project where up to eight farms that will use practices and inputs intended to increase the sequestration of carbon dioxide, a main greenhouse, in the plants and soil, and the impacts will be monitored and measured over a two-year period.

It has been estimated that farms in the U.S. have the potential to sequester 25 percent of carbon emissions that are the primary cause of climate change.

In addition, a single-use plastic bag ban was included in this year’s budget that will affect the entire state starting in 2020. A 5-cent fee on paper bags is also being introduced for towns and other local municipalities that choose to opt into the program.

Studies have shown that putting this 5 cent paper bag fee in addition to the plastic bag ban is crucial in getting people to invest in reusable bags, and decrease the amount of polluted plastic in our environment.

Metzger, a member of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, also announced that the New York Power Authority will have an expanded role in supports clean energy investments, including financing transmission infrastructure to support off-shore wind development; developing and operating electric vehicle charging infrastructure statewide; and financing up to six renewable projects to provide power for sale to local governments.

Metzger was joined Thursday by Tim Rogers, the mayor of the village of New Paltz; Christine Saward, Mamakating Town Council member; Jeremy Cherson, legislative advocacy manager for Riverkeeper; Susan Gillespie, president of Citizens for Local Power; and Betta Broad of New Yorkers for Clean Power.